Okay, he was quite a dish. I don't blame you on that one Ma. Is he my real daddy?
Anyway, like any good play, autism came and PLOT TWIST! I had enough trouble trying to navigate everyday tasks with him. Tackle New York City and a show? Yeah, that idea wasn't even in my mind until I watched my brother and his family go off to see Aladdin. I was like "Well damn, that sucks. We'll NEVER be able to pull that off."
Or would we? Enter the Theatre Development Fund! A group that arranges to book entire performance so just us #TeamQuirky players can buy tickets to go. Now that's what I'm talking about!
Just what makes a Broadway show suddenly "autism friendly"? Well, kind of like the sensory friendly movies that are becoming more popular, the sound isn't as loud and nobody cares if your date to the theater is flappy because theirs is too. Can I tell you what an absolute pleasure it is to be surrounded by the #TeamQuirky tribe? Everyone GETS IT. Also, the ticket prices are reduced. Still expensive but not "OH MY GOD! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" expensive. More like "Well, good thing fries are cheap." expensive.
I have never been to an autism event that was positively dripping with volunteer support staff like this one. Each carrying a bag of social story cards and fidget toys. There were "quiet zones" set up in the lobbies with play mats, bean bag chairs, toys, and books. A perfect place for the Kiddo to plop himself down on before they opened the doors. I noticed the bathrooms were turned into "Family bathrooms", so nobody cared if a mom brought a son in with her or a dad had a daughter in tow.
I couldn't help but noticed they were still sitting people that were coming in twenty minutes into the performance. If you have ever been to a Broadway show before, you know those doors close promptly at showtime and you are shit out of luck if you are late. That was really nice as I am sure most of those late comers timed it that way so their kids wouldn't have a lot of waiting time before hand in the seats with nothing going on. I get that.
First act, the Kiddo LOVED it. I spent the first number really watching him watching it. I didn't know that I would cry to "Arabian Nights" but there I was testing out the waterproof mascara I put on that day. In typical fashion of my Kiddo, he wanted to singing along and he did. Didn't know the words, so he made up his own. Did anyone around us care? Nope! Not a single person blinked an eye at it. Most likely because their kids were doing it too.
Intermission. Oy vey, that's when shit got real. The curtain closes. The lights go on and the Kiddo pops up and declares "The assembly is over!" and grabs his coat. I explain it's just a bathroom break time and my husband takes him to the restroom. While they were gone I watched a Koosh ball get tossed on the stage and then see a stage hand strut on stage to go get it. That kid really tossed it from far back. Good arm on that kid. Again, did anyone care? NOPE.
This is where it got dicey. Kiddo comes back to his seat and he's just done. He just wants to leave but I'm talking to him and explaining that even actors need a bathroom break. Hang tight. The second act starts and I'm hoping the magic will happen again. Yeah, ummmm, not so much so. Wasn't just the Kiddo though. Collectively, all the kids were kind of losing their shit at this point. (Actors and stagehands, I know you need your breather break but Man, that was a tough concept for the autism crowd to accept.) My boy was stuck in an awful place. He didn't want to stay but he didn't want to leave. He just wanted the lights back on and the show declared finished. I must have heard "The assembly is over." about a thousand times. We tried to leave but then he got upset about leaving. I honestly didn't know what to do at that point and was hoping like heck the Genie would just wrap it up already.
Then a small miracle. A volunteer came over and offered the Kiddo his own Koosh ball and a stress ball to play with and Damn if that Koosh ball didn't save the day. I told her "I think we might leave." and she told me "I'm right over there. I'll help. You just say the word." and she goes back to her post. By this point the husband hands our Kiddo his smartphone in last attempt to calm him and a bit of YouTube seemed to help too. Did anyone care? NOPE! There was a kid in front of us who played Minecraft on his iPad the entire show. Did we care? Nope, nope and did I mention, NOPE!
I had the foresight to have ordered seats on the aisle and when that curtain closed at the finale we were OUT OF THERE! Probably a good thing. Didn't get stuck in a crowd slowly snaking out of the theater. I'm sure that would have been stressful. Kiddo immediately asked for a hot dog, so that's what we did next. He was happy and content over dinner. My husband and I were both kind of stunned that we actually managed to do all that. There would be no way on this planet that this would be something we could do as a family without this kind of event and these supports. Even though this had some stressful moments and the potential for a really ugly scene, it was utterly and completely worth it if only to hear my son clap and screaming "YAY!" at the end of each song. (During the first act anyway.) We will certainly do it again and I'm hopeful that we can use this experience to bridge to the next one. ("Remember the bathroom break buddy? Yep, same thing here too. Darn those actors needing to pee!")
I'm really hoping more and more of these events happen and not just at the "kid level". My Kiddo is going to grow up. He's got a pretty good sense of humor. Maybe he'll want to see "The Book of Mormon." one day. ;-)
So thank you Theatre Development Fund for showing my Kiddo "A Whole New World". (Ha! See what I did there?)
Post theater cocktail. Hey, Mama Fry earned this one.