At Believe NYC, we say that dreams are achievable and our mission is built solidly on the belief that if you love something; art, dance, astronomy, whatever, that you should do it. And you should never give up on it. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the kids who are told You Can’t. Or, the kids with physical or mental challenges that can make doing what they love seem impossible.
A few summers ago, I had the opportunity to work with some students that had been told just that. One student in particular I will never forget. We will call him John. John was going into his junior year in high school and he was OBSESSED with musical theatre. This kid knew more about musical theatre than the entire staff (which included 10 BFA’s, 5 MFA’s, and countless hours of study and experience) John’s favorite show was The Producers. He could quote the whole thing by heart. John was funny, extremely focused, and was one of the hardest working students I’d ever met. John is also on the Autism spectrum. If I asked John to do something differently, he would loudly repeat what I had said several times to make sure he had it right. This would sometimes interrupt rehearsal, and, to be honest, took up allot of my time. But, once given a correction, John never made the same mistake again. He did everything I asked of him, without fail, every time. Just before opening night I was having a conversation with the owner of the theatre and she mentioned that John had not been allowed to audition for his school play. Confused, I asked why? I learned his public school drama teacher told his mother “It just wasn’t the right fit” for John. Wait. WHAT? I couldn’t think of any place where John would “fit in” more than in the theatre! I was disappointed at this teacher’s lack of understanding, courage, imagination, and well, human decency. It was upsetting enough that John was not in his school show, but even more unbelievable that a theatre teacher of all people wouldn’t even let him try. I was so proud of John’s performance that summer. John was the supporting lead and he got a laugh on every line. He sang beautifully. It was a truly wonderful performance. I wish his teacher had come to see just how wrong she was.
Next season, Believe NYC will produce an event to raise money for kids, like John, who are told, You Can’t. 300 children, some with special needs, will have the opportunity to perform in the ultimate venue: on a Broadway Stage. The Gershwin theatre, home of Broadway’s Wicked, will be transformed into a place where You Can’t doesn’t exist. Broadway performers will sing and dance alongside our students in a one night only event to support children with Autism. All proceeds from the evening’s performance will be donated to Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
If you are in New York next June, we hope you will join us for this inspiring evening of Arts For Autism. These children are going to do what they love. And we believe they can.
For information on performing in the Arts For Autism Concert, visit us at: http://www.believe-nyc.com/opportunities.html