Podcast friend Jacque Carnahan shares the inspiring story of the creation of Arts for Autism.
"Arts for Autism brings together Broadway stars and young artists from around the country for a one night only concert to benefit Autism Speaks. The concert includes all of my favorite things: music, dance, theatre, charity, community, and opportunity. And, it all takes place in the ultimate venue, The Gershwin Theatre on Broadway."
"Ever since I was a little girl music and dance were the two things that made me feel most alive. On the way home from dance class when I was about 8, my mom would always play one of her Whitney Houston tapes (yes, tapes!), and I would stare out the window and literally sob during 'Where Do Broken Hearts Go'. Not because I was sad about anything in particular, but because I was so moved. It sounds ridiculous, I know. And yes, I was a dramatic kid, (hence the career choice!). But, I think anyone with a beating heart can relate to how it feels to get swept away by a song or a story. It can lift us up, bring us joy, inspire us and help us see the world from a million different points of view."
"I've learned in the last few years how true this connection to music can be for children on the autism spectrum. I've heard story after story about children who were non-verbal and then were able to find the pathway to communication through music. I’ve worked with students who were not even allowed to audition for their school shows because of their disability, and watch them be cast and thrive in leading roles outside of school. It has become crystal clear to me that theatre and music are tools that can help people with autism express themselves."
"In this year's concert we have an incredible lyric soprano on the spectrum, Mina Cuesta. She was non-verbal in early childhood and now sings like an angel. When I received a video of Mina singing from her mom, I was blown away. Mina is super friendly and warm. Her spirit reminds me of myself when I was young. Her love of theatre and singing is infectious and endearing. When she sings it is obvious that she is her truest self and has also found the thing that makes her feel most alive."
"Since those days in the car with mom, I have dedicated my life to theatre making as a performer, producer and writer. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the arts could do more than just entertain. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ALL for a tap dance with a hat and cane, but it’s the joy behind those kinds of dances that really gets me. Performing on Broadway has always been the ultimate goal and I never would have dreamed the route I would take to get there."
"Six years ago, I was feeling stuck in my career. I had been lucky to perform in several beautiful shows Off-Broadway and on tour, but I realized that it was time to start creating my own opportunities. I wrote a one woman show about pursuing a life in theatre and teamed up with Educational Travel Adventures to help me book it with student performing arts groups. I wanted to write something that was real, and showed the ups and downs of this crazy business without sugar coating anything, but that would still be inspiring. I wanted to show young artists that the path to a career in musical theatre isn’t easy, but it’s also worth it. The partnership with ETA is what lead to the creation of Believe NYC and now, Arts For Autism."
"Arts For Autism sounded like an impossible idea at first. How did we think we could rent a Broadway theatre, and, how did we think we could fill it?? We moved ahead hopeful and terrified. Little by little, all the pieces started falling into place."
"A turning point in the planning for Arts For Autism was an email I received from Kelli O'Hara. I had forwarded a letter to her about hosting the concert through a friend of a friend and didn't really expect to hear back. Two hours after I sent the letter she emailed me back with the most heartfelt reasons for saying yes to be our host. She actually thanked ME for asking her! Turns out, her dearest friend from growing up has a son with autism and she had been searching for something to do about it. It was fate. I literally lept out of my chair when I read the words, 'Dear Jacque, I'm IN. Proud to be. Thank you for asking me. What do you need?'. From Kelli O'HARA!! What do I need!!?? That was when I knew our impossible idea might be a success."
"This year, 170 young artists from around the country will perform in the concert alongside Broadway Performers. While they are in New York, they will participate in masterclasses and seminars about pursing a life in the performing arts. They have been rehearsing all year for the chance to stand onstage with performers like Kelli O’Hara, Stephanie J. Block, Christopher Jackson, and more. What is so special about this is that we are also teaching these young artists that they can do something good with their gifts."
"Often, people want to do something to help others, but have no idea how. Luckily, theatre people all know that there is an obvious, clear action we can take. We can use our gifts for good. In the last few years I have been overwhelmed by the willingness of performers in the Broadway community to use their talents to lift up others. I've see the stars of multiple Broadway shows join in with full hearts to help children with autism share their voices in ways they might not have known how to access on their own."
"This year’s show is dedicated to people with autism and their parents. Kelli’s friend Katie and her son Finley will be in the audience. On Monday, June 19th at 7:30pm the orchestra will start, the lights will shine, and we will all sing and dance to promote inclusion, awareness, acceptance and kindness."
Tickets to Arts For Autism can be purchased at www.artsforautism.net