Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2nd Grade Show

My wife and I are (or at least were) both actors. As well-documented in these pages, we transferred Jack to the Visual and Performing Arts Magnet school this year. Well tonight is the "2nd Grade Show"... the dreaded school play.

From the ages of 5-12, my parents put me into acting. I was good at it, liked it, and it kept me out their hair for a few hours a week.

(Jordan in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" circa 1984)

Julie tried her hand in acting through college. Even tried it out as a career before she decided to go to law school instead.

(Julie's Headshot - circa 1998)

(Julie in the "Shakespeare Reading and Performance Group" after a production of scene nights. Julie is on the far left in the back row... fun side note: The guy below her in the white tank top is none other than Oscar nominated actor James Franco. Kind of cool, eh? UCLA - circa 1996)

Obviously, performing arts means a lot to Julie and I. The performing arts are woven into the curriculum at his new school and Jack loves drama class.

So, tonight is the 2nd grade show, and Julie and I were caught in an enigma. Jack has a very small part. He has one speaking line and three or four group reaction lines. The kids have been rehearsing for a little over a month and he has been doing well.

In all honesty, as with any second grade show, you attend to catch the "fuck ups". Someone will blow their line. Someone will knock over a piece of scenery. Someone will scream a line that is supposed to be whispered. It's kind of the fun of it. A drama teacher might have to run on stage and direct someone away. Those things are fine, funny, even expected.

But what if the little boy with Autism has a full-on meltdown? What if the little girl with Tourette's can't stop her tic? What if the little boy with CP can't wheel himself offstage because of unforseen accessibility issues?

Jack has been doing great in rehearsal. During rehearsals, however, he is medicated and has his behavioral aide by his side (or at least nearby). Neither of those will be the case with the evening performance. Take a moment to think about how difficult "acting"  must be on a child with autism. A child that already has a difficult time with perspective-taking. We want you to pretend to be someone else, surrounded by others that are pretending to be someone else, in an environment that is pretending to be something else, expressing emotions that are pretending to be something else... in front of 500 people!

But no! Full inclusion Dammit!

So, we wrestled with the ideas regarding the evening show. His part is small. We could just pull him from the evening performance (there is a daytime performance for the kids as well). We could do nothing and just presume competence and hope for the best.

That's what full inclusion is all about, isn't it?

No, it's not. Full inclusion is awesome. It's the ultimate goal. But we have an advantage... supports. Within his IEP Jack still has several "supports" and this is why they are there.

So I called the drama teacher to get a valuable perspective on what to do. Last night she called me back and I want to share part of that conversation.

I asked her what she thought was best given my (our) concerns and she handed it back to me. I think that if we can have one of us (Julie and I) backstage to remove him if necessary, that would be best. She agreed and granted us access and permission to do so. Well... that was easy.

We exchanged thank yous and then she told me this:

"You know, Mr. Capell, I just want you to know something. I have a gigantic soft spot for Jack. I have a sixteen year-old with Aspergers and four red-heads... how could I not love that kid? I am happy you don't want to pull him from the show and give him the chance to shine."

"I just really love that boy"


So, tonight, Julie gets to return to her acting roots and hang out backstage. My boy gets a chance to stand in the spotlight and get his first experience of thunderous applause.

And I get to wrestle with all the other parents, trying to find the best seat to take video, holding flowers... not for my boy, not for my wife...

But for the drama teacher. The next in what will hopefully be a long line of educators that not only champion my boy, but believe in giving him every opportunity possible... and love him.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Hell, we may discover that we have the next James Franco on our hands.

Friday, November 8, 2013

My America

It's 11:30 and the wife and kids are asleep. You make yourself a sandwich and cue up The Walking Dead, the show you're only allowed to watch after everyone else has fallen asleep. There's a sickness in the prison, and you've had to wait three nights to figure it out. You step outside to have a cigarette. It's a pleasant evening, cool but not yet cold.

Something catches your eye across the street. A car that doesn't belong in your neighborhood. A woman sitting in the driver seat. A man digging through the trash cans that have been neatly placed curbside for the early morning pick up. The man returns to the car with a plastic container of one of your neighbors take-out. He hands it to the woman in the car and she sniffs it, examines it, and eats it.

You think to yourself that you could just give them the sandwich you made sitting on your counter. People shouldn't be eating out of trash cans in our America. The woman gets out of the car and you notice she is unmistakably pregnant. She throws her garbage in the street and heads the other direction to check the trash cans on the South side of the block.

You think to yourself about the baby. You remember you got some cash for the babysitter and still have $30 in your wallet. When you're done with your cigarette, you'll give it to her. And you can make yourself another sandwich.

Lost in your daze, you've failed to realize the man has come over to your side of the block. He's at the neighbor's trash can. They still don't see you standing on your dark porch. You put the cigarette out and turn back to grab the sandwich when something new comes out; a flashlight.

Your mood changes as the man shines the flashlight into your wife's car parked on the street. You watch in horror as the man tries the door to the car. Luckily it's locked. He tries one of the rear doors. Locked as well. You loudly step on one of the dry leaves that litter your porch. He notices and looks up and shines the light on you.

Although blinded, you can see his shoulders slump and his head hang downward. You say nothing. The light goes down to his feet and you can see his face. A face that can only say one thing: shame.

He shuffles his feet, no more than 15 feet from you, lets out a loud whistle and you catch the pregnant woman waddling back to the car. He backs away, still staring at you.

You reach into your back pocket for your wallet. He must think you're pulling a weapon because he runs across the street to his car. The woman has made her way into the driver's seat and started the engine. You yell out the only thing you can think of.


You have money in your hand and you step off your porch to them, but they speed away.

The tail lights start to disappear at the end of the block as you stand in the middle of the street with $30 dollars in your hand. The car weaves back and forth down the narrow street. Maybe they thought you were trying to write down or memorize their license plate and weaving would distract you. The car turns the corner and is gone.

And the only thing you can think of is "Boy or Girl".


This is not my America.