I step out onto the stage where Raising Autism will be performed, a play I’ve written as a fundraiser for POAC Autism Services of Brick, with the theater manager trailing slightly behind me.
I tentatively approach the edge, am rewarded with the sight of hundreds of empty seats waiting upon my words, an old but working venue with a real balcony to boot.
My young guide starts to tell me about microphone amps and soundboards, but I momentarily tune him out as I think about what else has brought me to this exact spot.
I think about how the words of my script will be performed here in a few weeks, and I am exhilarated.
I remind myself that I will be one of the actresses saying these words, and I am momentarily terrified.
The entire enterprise of writing, acting, directing and producing a play is an unprecedented stretch for me.
Then I recall that some of the simplest aspects of daily life are an almost Herculean stretch for my eldest son, a boy with moderate autism.
I take a deep breath, and take one more step.
Raising Autism is written from the perspective of three different mothers of children with autism. All of the moms in the play are reading from their “diaries."
One of the characters is a young mother with a newly diagnosed son, who is struggling with the label given her child, her fractured marriage, and the fact that she has recently discovered she’s pregnant again.
The second is a single mom faced with the challenge of almost sole care of her brilliant but difficult pre-teen autistic daughter, a woman who is able to channel faith to give her the strength to persevere in what seems to her like almost insurmountable odds.
The last character is a college professor discussing her experiences raising adopted teen-aged twins with her partner, sharing both the challenges they face now, and the struggles of having two children diagnosed on the spectrum well before autism was a household word.
The enthusiastic manager begins to educate me as to the merits of a spotlight versus more traditional lighting techniques, and as I step toward him I barely miss tripping over wires that would have landed me perilously close to the stage’s edge.
I make a mental note to avoid tumbling to the floor for dramatic effect on performance night.
I then turn to the young man whose grandfather has so graciously reduced the price of this rental due to its philanthropic bent, and give him my full attention as we discuss whether our chairs should be placed in front of or behind the scarlet curtain.
I shake off my worries and concerns as I’ve done hundreds of times in the past eight years, and try to live in the moment.
Through the graciousness of POAC Autism Services, in a few weeks time I will get to share an amalgamation of so many mothers’ stories to a live (and hopefully receptive), audience.
I will have the chance to honor my sons, both of whom have autism.
And as I carefully back over the slim strands of the wires which will carry my words throughout this elegant room, I allow myself one last extraneous thought.
Break a leg, Kimberlee. Break a leg.
For more information about POAC Autism Services or tickets for the play, please visit POAC's website at:http://www.poac.net.