Monday, January 16, 2012

It’s a Hard Knock Life - When You Can’t See the Play

So, what happens when you take your son with autism to a play, and it turns out that he can’t see much of it or understand what it is about?

Kai’s 10-year old cousin Lucy was making her acting debut this weekend in a kids’ production of the musical Annie, with all roles played by elementary school students. Lucy was playing one of the orphans.

Lucy is an awesome kid. She’s sweet, smart, and talented. And she’s rather patient and big sisterly with Kai on the occasions they are together, and Kai likes her a lot.

So of course we wanted to see her perform.

We had taken Kai to a few plays before. It is hard to get him to sit still, and he isn’t always as quiet as he should be, but he likes music and will generally sit through a play nicely enough if it has a fun story and good songs.

And I thought that Annie would qualify in that regard. (I know that I have to turn in my man card as I admit that I loved Annie when I saw a touring company perform it years ago.)

So, on Saturday afternoon, we went to the church where the play was held.

The play was performed at the front of the church, on ground level, the same level as the audience. This church, like most, does not have theater seating. So, even though we were only in the ninth row (Kai counted, of course), we could not see a whole lot of the young, small performers. Instead, we mostly saw the back of the heads of the people in the rows in front of us. If we craned our heads, we would see glimpses of some of the performers.

Besides not being able to see much of the play, it was difficult to follow the dialogue. That was to be expected – after all, these are kids, most of who were acting for the first time, and not exactly like professionals when it came to projecting their voices. In addition, with children playing both the kids and adult roles, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish the characters. If you weren’t already familiar with the story, I think it would have been really tough to follow the plot.

Put it all together and it was not a conducive environment for Kai.

He fidgeted throughout. He talked quite a bit, except during the songs. My wife shushed him. I tried to hold him close and keep him quiet.

At nearly 8 years old and 65 pounds, he is long past the time when he should be sitting on his parents’ laps. But I had him on mine, mostly so I could keep him close and under control as much as possible.

I was somewhat thankful that his grandfather, rather than strangers, was sitting in front of us. I was afraid to turn around to see who was in back of us.

We almost left several different times, but each time Kai quieted down for the moment, saying he wanted to see the whole play. I think he liked the songs, and his cousin.

And so we stayed.

From what I was able to see, Lucy was awesome.

At the end Kai joined in the big round of applause for the young cast.

As we were walking out, we passed a table where we could write messages for cast members. My wife and I wrote notes to Lucy telling her what a great job she did. Kai simply wrote, “You’re cute. Love, Kai.”

When I later thought of how hard it was for Kai to understand what was going on during the play, I thought that it was actually remarkable that he wasn’t even more restless. So, though it was really difficult, it wasn’t a complete disaster either.

When I look at it like that, I might be inclined to agree that the sun really will come out tomorrow.


  1. Great post! I can totally relate. It's always hard when we take Norrin to these kind of things. But Kai sat through it to support his cousin. That's great!

  2. He is growing up. I remember how difficult it was for me at Kai's age to do the same thing. I had hated those types of situations...and I would sneak out.

    That was a nice card Kai had written. That was quite a compliment for a young girl to receive. When I had received such a card from a girl...although I now realize I had read much more into it than still made me feel good for a long time.

  3. Thanks, Lisa!

    Shiroi, I guess it's a good thing that Kai wanted to stay instead of sneaking out... Ha, I don't remember ever getting a note like that when I was a kid.


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