This snapshot of a performance report from Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis has been floating around my Facebook feed. Created by the stage manager following every performance, it's usually a pretty mundane document — a basic communication tool for people working on the current production to let everyone else in the company know how the show is going.

This one, though, is remarkable and speaks to the power of art and story to reach beyond the edifice of our everyday. It reads:

"It was generally agreed by all that the show was 'kind of rough' (tech wise). But after the show we learned that there was a 5 year old autistic child in the house. He had never spoken. But as the lights went down, he began to talk. In full sentences. He called the teacher by name. She had no idea he even knew her name. He was engaged in the show — at one point commenting to the teacher that if there is a dragon then there will be fire. And there was fire. He talked all throughout the show. When the lights came back up — he quit talking and returned to his world. So, yes, I could list all the little things that wrong today but that is not what this show is about. And that little boy certainly didn’t see those things as he sat talking in the dark theatre watching Harold and his Purple Crayon."

And of course, I couldn't help think of our interview with Paul Collins and Jennifer Elder in "Autism and Humanity."

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what beautiful evidence of the power of theatre.

Wonderful story confirming the power of theater on humans open to the full experience. Thank you.

How, I wonder, did the Stage Manager find this out, between the show and writing his report, in a theatre that seats at least 573 people?

Well clearly someone told him and I'm glad he recorded it. I would call that story 'the power of taking away bright lights busy people and other bothersome sensory distractions'.

I had a young volunteer on stage a few years ago. Picked him because of the determined look in his eyes as he sat calmly at the edge of his seat, hand raised. All the other kids were jumping and screaming, "Me! Pick me!"
He rocked it, was a bit young, but he did everything I asked and the audience loved him. Totally involved himself in the routine, shouted, "Ja!" when I asked him if he was a smart young man, played around with me, the whole deal.

Two weeks later his parents were desperately trying to find out if we had recorded the show, because, "He has Aspergers Syndrome. We've never seen him come that far out of his shell, and he hasn't gone all the way back!"

I have a number of these stories, as do all of my performer friends. And I believe for every one we know of, there are a hundred we never hear about.

Art matters, theatre rocks.

My little brother is autistic and is turning five in just a few days. He doesn't say anything at all (excluding "Mom" when he's angry and babbling). I wish he would speak. I wonder if he would open up like that.

I'm on the board of a nonprofit that sponsors performing arts for autism and special needs families, and is led by concert pianist Stephen Prutsman. Ours are some of the most intense and appreciative (if noisy) audiences you will find, so the clip above certainly resonates. Please learn more at autismfunbayarea.org.
Also, our collaboration with Ballet San Jose to open the doors to a very enthusiastic special-needs audience was just featured on the news:
http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Ballet-San-Jose-Holds-Exclusive-Performance-for-Special-Needs-Families-303855201.html

Some brains work differently than others, but even unusual brains connect to the arts.

This needs to be sent to every scientist, investor and astronaut of Mars 1. Their pure disregard for life is astonishing. I wish we could transfer essence of mind and spirit from those that are truly deserving and those that are truly ignorant. Fame, wealth, glory, history...what is it that makes these people mad? One or a combination of more than one? are they the same species? Are they biologically wired differently? Are their experiences so vastly cold and filled with loss and devoid of love that they feel life is not precious? I do not understand and I wish long life and prosperity to the foolish. Is this why the Almighty protects them and the rest of so deeply struggle? I am at a loss and I do not understand them. We are so polar opposite it is amazingly amazing. I do hope that the science protects you from the intense solar cosmic radiation at more that 500uJ/min...I truly do. Good-bye human I will do my best to ensure you are remembered with dignity; although, I do not believe you are sane.

Simply amazing and so touching and inspiring! Beautiful testament to the incredible impression that theatre can have upon people.

My brother was autistic and didn't speak or make eye contact. He died January 4th at 62. The woman who ran the home he lived in told me that several years ago she walked by his room and heard my brother singing to a song on the radio. Turns out it was our fathers favorite song. Our father had died sho rly before.

We must be aware of the power of the arts for all of humanity, but especially those who we do not realize we have the ability to touch. Music Therapy/Art Therapy/theatre--these are areas that know what we can achieve through the arts.This is beautiful and should be aware and supportive of all these areas can achieve that others cannot.

My wife, Barbara,and I founded Storybook Theatre of Los Angeles 31 years ago. It's the only Equity children's theatre in the City of Los Angeles. Ironically, she got her training at the Minneapolis Children's Theatre. We have had two autistic children speak for the first time at one of our performance. One child got on stage and started chasing the Wolf around in Little Red Riding Hood...yelling "Leave her alone." Every time an autisitic child is in the audience, he or she is more active than the child's parents have ever seen. We want to do more and to use our theatre in an ongoing way to help children with these kinds of challenges. Hope there is some therapist or professionl in this field who knows more than we do and would like to team up with us to make a real difference.

Hi Lloyd. Our nonprofit sponsors performing arts for autism and special needs families (see autismfunbayarea.org) and we'd love to help you expand your work to target special audiences. We're in the Bay Area, and not LA, but hey, same state! Please check out our website.

Meanwhile, what's the first thing that gets cut out of U.S. schools because of budget constraints? The arts. This is absolutely backwards. Music, art, drama, dance, etc., should be REQUIRED in our schools. Time and time again we see proof that they're the most powerful tools for learning and healing on the planet.

Beautiful. A powerful testament to the power of theatre. When I was teaching Children's Theatre at the college level, I had my college students perform short plays written by children and youth in a play-writing-in-the-schools-program I ran. The young authors and their parents would come to my class, held in a small theatre, and see their shows with lights, scenery, costumes and grown up actors. One year I learned after the production that one of the plays was written by an autistic teenage girl. When she joined the other authors to take a bow at the end of the showcase she showed no emotion(which was typical for her) but her parents were overjoyed. Until her teacher gave the assignment to write a play for children, the teacher and the girl's parents had no idea she could do such complex writing. When my students and I read the play and all through rehearsals, we had no idea the author was autistic. I later learned she was not even high on the autism spectrum. It was such a joy to see this and share this experience of the power of theatre with my students, most of whom were training to be teachers.