For the past two years, my son has been involved in the Shakespeare and Autism Project, a collaborative effort between the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Nisonger Center, and the Ohio State University Theater Program.
Yesterday we attended The Tempest, the play that is adapted for the program. There is a lot of wordplay involved while the whole play is not covered word for word. Neil was not interested in even go into the performance space at COSI at first, but once we got inside he was able to settle down in his seat.
He would not go down in the circle with the actors and other children. There were about three dozen people in the audience, and the children represented all segments of the autism spectrum. Neil sat, hummed and sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while the play was going on but when Ariel started singing he stopped to pay attention.
There was one part of the performance in which the word game is “Bugs, beetles, bats” words that are shouted by all the players. I prompted him, and he already knew and shouted out bats at the right time. I was quite astonished that he was so on it.
Kelly Hunter, the director of the program, noticed and rushed over and asked Neil if he wanted to get in the circle. He got up, Kevin, one of the actors, took him on and they played the game together. It was quite remarkable. After that game was over Neil came back to his seat. There were a couple of other times where Neil participated and it was quite moving to watch.
When the play was over, the door opened and Neil took notice of that and essentially sprinted out of the room so we could not stay and thank all of the actors who took part. Neil seemed to know his obligations were met! The other children really seemed to get something out of the play as well, some left in the middle of the performance. One girl pulled out her cell phone, one got up and left the room to a chill out area then came back.