When I've taken Kayla to see plays or ballets she is mesmerized by what is happening on the stage. At the end of the performances she'll say it's her turn to be on stage. She enjoyed being on stage for the ballet recital and the Global Down Syndrome Foundation's Fashion Show.
So when I saw the Missoula's Children's Theater was on base last week to perform an original adaptation of Snow White I knew I had to take her to the auditions.
She was excited when I asked her if she wanted to try out to be in the play Snow White; of course I knew that she would want to BE Snow White. I made sure to explain to her that you had to be older to be Snow White but maybe she could play another character ... one of the dwarfs, or an animal.
Auditions were Monday and we had no idea what to expect. She's never been involved in a play before, much less auditioned for one. The only thing I was told was the kids would sit in a circle and the tour directors would ask their names and ages and see how loud they responded and get a feel for their personalities.
Well they did that and then some. The only thing I practiced with Kayla was saying her name loudly, and clearly.
It didn't go so well. I couldn't even hear her say her name when it was her turn. It was like she was just speaking to the tour director directly instead of making sure she was heard.
Then they had different lines that they had to say in a small group and then individually. Kayla's group had the line, "My calculations are always correct!" It's not a long sentence, but for a child with speech issues I admit I groaned when I heard that line. A word with 4 syllables is hard for Kayla; I usually have to break them up and we say it syllable by syllable until she can (mostly) get each syllable in the word. I knew 'calculations' was going to be tough for her to say.
When it was Kayla's turn it was obvious that she wasn't going to be able to say the full sentence. One of the tour directors, Kelly, was great and didn't miss a beat. She said to Kayla, "How about this? Just say 'my calculations." After Kayla repeated that, Kelly said, "are always correct." I was thankful she was able to split the sentence up for Kayla so she could still participate and say the line.
They ended up having a part for every child who auditioned. They said that doesn't always happen (I think they didn't have as many kids audition as they were expecting), but either way, Kayla was given the role of a frog - one of the Forest Animals.
I kept debating whether to thank the tour directors for giving Kayla a role, for a taking a chance with her and letting her participate in the play. But then that felt like I was saying they were doing her a favor, when really, why shouldn't she have a chance to be in the play? Kayla wasn't the only kid who didn't speak up
loudly, who wasn't demonstrative, who mumbled or didn't speak clearly,
who hadn't been in a play before, who didn't put much oomph into
speaking their lines ... so if they were also chosen why shouldn't Kayla
have been too?
I wasn't expecting her to be any of the main characters, and that's fine. I just wanted her to get her feet wet and see how she did and if she would have fun.
Most of the time the Forest Animals were on the stage they sat in a line and as the narrator was talking they did some had motions. Kayla did have a couple of speaking lines though. One of her lines (which was spoken with 2 other kids) was, "And we have a new queen!?"
In the first rehearsal this line sounded like this to Kayla, "Andwehaveanewqueen?!"
She tried to say it in unison with the other 2 kids, but she could only get out "new queen."
The next day I did ask Kelly if they could slow that line down just a beat. I practiced it with Kayla and if it was said more like, "And .. we .. have .. a .. new .. queen!?" she was more able to say the full line just about in unison.
Kelly had no problems with my request and immediately called the 3 of the kids over to practice it at the slower pace. This worked so much better for Kayla.
I am thankful that they didn't look at Kayla and see Down syndrome
and automatically think it wasn't going to work out. Down syndrome never
came up at all. If the tour directors had any reservations about Kayla
they never expressed it to me ... they just accepted in her the play and
treated her like everyone else.