Friday, April 20, 2012


As Em left the house this morning, Baroy said to her, "Break a leg today."

Something about that--not "Have a great day at school," or "See you tonight"--sent sparks of joy through my soul. I can't exactly explain. But I sort of want to try.

Em is a freshman in high school, and started taking drama as an elective this year. And it has simply and totally electrified her. So when auditions for the first play of the year were announced, she tried out. And got called back. But didn't get a role.

"I just wanted to be part of it," she said to us that night, sadly.

"So ask how you can be," we both told her.

That next day, she went up to the head of the drama department and asked, "How can I help?" And he thanked her profusely, since she was one of only two kids who went from the director's "No, thanks" to "I'm sure there are other ways I can be useful."

And thus a star was born.

She worked that show, learning more about theater than she would have as a cast member. When they announced the spring theater schedule (there were two musicals and one play), she tried out for them, too, but still didn't get a role. And so she became the Assistant Director for "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." And when that was finished? The head of the drama department asked her if she would pleasepleaseplease help out with the play, which was about to go up. He called her magnificent. She joked that she's never going to get a role in a play at the school because they're always going to want her on the crew. She may be right.

After those three almost-back-to-back theater experiences, we had a week off for spring break. There are two MORE plays going up; one of them starts tonight, the other in two weeks. So perhaps it shouldn't have surprised any of us to get a call from Em on the second day back to school, which was Wednesday: "Mr. B wants to know if I can stage manage the play going up this week," she said. "And he says they'll probably need me for the next one, too."

Tonight is opening night; she's been working on this play for just two days...but they've been long days, after school, into the late evening. When we realized that she has a soccer game that will interfere with her being there in time for the Saturday performance, she went to the director of the play and talked with him about how she would make sure that someone was ready to handle her jobs that day. Two days in, and she is IN CHARGE.

Remember, Em is 14 years old. A freshman. New to this large suburban LA school, which is a big pond by any definition. And yet, she has already become the go-to girl for the theater department's backstage needs.

Recently, the department held what were essentially auditions for the next-level drama classes; everyone who could fit it into their schedule for the next year would get in, but they were creating a new four-tier system. Instead of classes for sophomores, juniors, and seniors each, they are mixing the grades, creating small groups of 'players' based. I could brag about the fact that Em skipped a level and was placed higher than expected. But that's not what stood out for me when she told me about the auditions. What stood out was that, when she went up to do her monologue, the department head used her as an example to the group, asking her how many plays she'd tried out for ("all of them," she said), how many she'd gotten into ("uh...none") and how many she'd worked ("three" at that time). This, he told the class, though I can't quote him because I wasn't there, is what theater is about. This, he told the class, is the kind of commitment and passion he wants to see.

And from what I heard, she beamed. She had every right to. I sure did, hearing about it.

But that's not entirely why the "Break a leg" lit me up this morning. It's part, but not all. The other part is just how proud her father is of her. Remember, he's an actor and playwright. He loves theater. LOVES theater. Whereas everyone else in LA talks about their screenplays--and he has written more than one of those, for sure--he's all about his plays. He takes theater very seriously. He does not suffer theatrical fools gladly.

And so the fact that he practically glows with pride over his daughter, and that he shows it by treating her like any other professional in the theater, by talking with her about the shenanigans backstage and giving her advice on how to handle people who don't live up to her standards, by telling her to "break a leg" as she leaves the house in the morning, despite the fact that the play doesn't start until tonight and there's a whole day of school in between...Something about it. Something. She's so grown up. She's earned the respect and the accolades.

There's been a change in her, and it's been dramatic. She's a shining star, that girl.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

For Autism Awareness Month

I've been so remiss; it's not even worth explaining. And this isn't even going to make up for it; it's not going to be some deep discussion of autism or the awareness thereof or whether we ought to be past all that (we ought). I'm here only because I've been putting a bunch of N-isms on Facebook lately, and that means there are some of you--if you're still out there--who haven't seen or heard these yet.

I told N that I'd gotten him some of the frozen french-bread pizzas he likes so much. "You knew I like those," he said, nodding his head sagely. "You know me pretty well."

It is damned near impossible to keep a straight face around that child sometimes...

N lost his favorite blue fleecy jacket at the golf course today. Losing things he loves is hard for our boy. I was trying to explain to him that it wasn't as bad as he was making it out:

Me: It's just a jacket. It's a thing that you lost, not a person. It's not like someone died. It's just a lost thing.

N: But it IS like someone died. Jacket, Jack...Grandpa Jack?

And he crumbled to the floor in dramatic fashion.

(Usually, I can hold it together, but this time I burst out laughing. I think he bought my explanation that it was because he made a connection I would never have thought of, but it was touch and go there for a few moment. That child.)

Last night, walking past as I was putting food on his plate, N says, "Oooh, Fwench fwies!"

I look at him with a smile, and he stops and says, "What? I was just using my baby voice. Or, actually, the voice I use when i say something in a silly way." 

And if that, my friends, isn't the best example ever of the war between humor and the ingrained literalness of an ASD kid, I don't know what is.

N's latest test of his ability to locate states and remember their capitals. His spelling. It slays me. Which one's your favorite?

Happy April, folks.