“Break a leg, Alan and Laura!”
This was the phone message Brooks left on our friends’ answering machine the night before the reading of their new musical.
It’s clear to us now that Brooks understands the abstract concept of this phrase; that it means good luck and that it has nothing to do with broken bones. So my husband and I happily cross out “takes things too literally” from our list of ongoing concerns for our son’s future.
It’s been a good week for “the list.” Although Brooks wasn’t old enough to attend the reading, he understood how special it was: that my husband and I took a day off work for it, and that it was an extraordinary accomplishment. For the benefit of those who’ve never attended a reading, here’s how it works: the writers hire actors, a band, a director, and a musical director to rehearse for a few days. Without any sets or costumes, script in hand, the cast reads and sings through the show to an invited audience of perspective producers. And because this is a city full of Shuberts and Nederlanders, your musical gets a real shot at getting produced.
As I sat in the audience, I was obviously reminded of my own readings in the past, and of the incomparable high of seeing your own original material — something only in your imagination until you were brave enough to write it down — become its own entity in the hands of New York City’s top-notch Broadway performers. And as I applauded proudly for our friends, I felt so thankful that we can legitimately share this with Brooks, and that he gets it. He understands that grown-ups can be doctors and lawyers, like some of our friends, but that they can also be songwriters. (Granted, he doesn’t yet appreciate the “you can make a killing but you can’t make a living” aspect of most artistic careers, but that can come later.)
When we revisit “the list,” like we did this week, we remind ourselves that although it has always been getting shorter if you graph it over time, it remains comprehensive. It still includes “difficulty relating to his peers outside of structured predictable environments,” “trouble participating in sports due to physical coordination issues,” “sensitivity to isolated loud noises,” just to name a few. But can we now scratch “develop meaningful relationships with family and friends?” Given that the first thing Brooks said the morning after the reading was: “How was Alan and Laura’s show?” We probably should have eighty-sixed this one after Aunt Madeline’s tremendously successful first sleep over, but autism can be slippery, so we tend to err on the side of caution.
Later in the week, Brooks’s communication book from school had this entry: “We performed plays today. Brooks made up his own song and sang it to the class during his performance.”
Alan and Laura: Good luck with the show, and thank you for being such excellent role models for Brooks!