It was a Friday night. The schedule was clear. Perfect timing. Plus, a dear friend said “Yes!” to my spontaneous invitation….When we drove to the debut performance of SENSE Theatre, I knew to expect an on-stage adventure. What I didn’t know was that I’d be moved to tears by what I witnessed that night. I knew many of the youth with autism who performed in the production. A range of ages, they acted alongside and intermingled with typically developing members of the University School of Nashville‘s Theatre Guild. My heart swelled with excitement for the special performers’ parents. Frequently, I bent forward and then backward in my seat, craning my neck–that behavior my mother scorned during church services. In my nosiness, I hoped to glance at the pride I knew would be consuming these parents’ faces and spirits. When I’d find one of them in my line of vision, my quest was rewarded. It was obvious. Their eyes were fixed upon the stage and their beings were consumed with joy for their children.
My friend who accompanied me, too, was blessed by the ingenuity, creativity and purity of this endeavor. Hard work. On everyone’s part. It was obvious. What. A. Brainchild of the very special, new-to-Vanderbilt University Blythe Corbett, Ph.D, professor of neuropsychology, as featured before here on the “Journey with Grace” blog. What a gift we have in our Nashville area autism community with her talented and inventive presence.
The message of the production that night was sweet and each child, even if they had difficulty on stage initially that evening, had an opportunity to express their unique self. My heart was burst open and filled with, akin to the performer’s parents…Such. JOY. A couple of wadded Kleenex worth. SENSE Theatre is beautiful and unique.
This first production was entitled “Bridges,” which was a lyrical play about belonging. The theme song of the play, “Weird and Wonderful” embraced the idea that we are all unique and need to accept and celebrate our wonderful uniqueness in ourselves and others.
There’s more! The next SENSE Theatre and USN collaboration is September 16, 17 and 18, where members of the autism community star in another original play as a part of USN Theatre Guild’s 2011 New Play Festival of one acts by USN playwrights. The three dates each offer a 90-minute smorgasboard of comedy, satire and serious drama. (Note: the last three acts contain content that may be disturbing to youth under 13.)
The SENSE Theatre play, amid the USN one acts series, is called “Earworms.” Set in the 1960s, the production examines the plight of a mother’s desperate search to find a cure for her child’s “syndrome.” Her encounters with expert doctors lead her nowhere until she meets a young singer who changes her family’s lives forever.
Corbett says of the new SENSE Theatre production: “While we promote understanding we also hope to provoke empathy for the deep challenges faced by parent and child as they struggle to communicate and accept their hopes and fears.” The songs in the show are written by Corbett and veteran singer/songwriter, Tammy Vice, also previously featured on “The Journey with Grace”. “It’s been an extraordinary collaboration between two people who have been working and living in the autism world for years and ‘get it,'” said Corbett.
Tickets are $5. Online ticket access starts September 6 at www.usn.org/podium, or can be purchased at the door, (USN, 2000 Edgehill Avenue, Nashville).
I’ll be there. You?