"A person’s great love and a person’s great heartbreak are almost never the same thing and it seems to me that most people spend a lot of time being protective of the wrong one. Yesterday, I was very sad, but today I got to go on a walk with the neighbors two blocks down on Elm and their St. Bernard, Boog. Plus my mom let me have two bowls of sugar cereal which never happens. Pain is for letting go." ~ Words of wisdom from Oddly Puddle
Nashvillians have 12 more chances to see a brilliant play about a boy with autism and his neighborhood community peers as The Theater Bug's production, "Oddly Puddle is from Inner Space" runs Thursday -- Saturday evenings at 7 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., through Feb. 23. The tender plot was expertly and sensitively directed and written by Cori Anne Laemmel, founder of The Theater Bug, an East Nashville children's theater organization. Local music producer and "Theater Bug parent" Eric Fritsch composed the production's music.
"Oddly Puddle" continues Laemmel's tradition of choosing poignant topics of cultural relevance. In a production last year the young organization addressed children's terminal diseases.
Local uber-advocate and friend Erin Matthews Richardson straddles dual worlds of theater and autism with her daughter, Virginia--who shows notable talent and is racking starring roles in local theater--and her son, Graham, who has autism. The later of her three children inspired Richardson's launch of her own new-ish nonprofit Special Education Advocacy Center. SEAC provides special education advocacy to families and students.
Richardson and Laemmel were destined to collaborate and partner their causes. Virginia is a student at The Theater Bug and as the friendship between director and parent flourished, Laemmel was inspired to write a play about a boy with autism. As any parent or loved one of a person with autism who sees the play will testify, Oddly Puddle is spot-on in its moving and loving portrayal of a young person with autism, be they more severe or higher functioning. Richardson and her staff were omnipresent in making sure the portrayal was accurate and fair of its representation of those on the autism spectrum.
In the first two weeks of the play's run, Virginia Richardson stars as Annabelle. (Witness her striking talent in the above video, as well as young actor, Joseph Goodman, who plays Oddly. Both star in the first two weeks of the production.) The clip is a snippet from the play that encompasses much more than the topic of young love, as portrayed in the above footage.
Saturday evening of the premier weekend clients of SEAC were given complimentary admission. The theater also graciously granted us space to sell GraceART. This coming Saturday I will join other parents in a panel discussion after the play. Proceeds from Saturday, Feb. 15 performance will benefit SEAC. And the last Saturday's performance, Feb. 22, another panel of parents will participate in a panel discussion after the show.
Oddly Puddle is a venture of pure-hearted goodwill, from the young founder's embracing spirit to provide theater opportunities; to its commitment of tackling issue-oriented topics; to the benefiting of SEAC and GraceART; the families of SEAC; the greater Nashville community--which is gifted a bird's eye view of the prevalent and enigmatic disorder of autism--and to the gentle message of love and benevolence in this superbly executed production--from conception to delivery--by a most professional and engaging cast of young actors. BRAVO! Now, don't miss it. Bring your friends. This is good stuff for the LOT of us!
Next up: mark your calenders for the 7 p.m. March 7-8 performances of SENSE Theatre, at Belmont University's Black Box Theatre. Seventeen actors with autism, aged 8 to 16 perform in this Nashville theatrical intervention program study funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health. SENSE Theatre was created to improve the social and emotional functioning of children and youth with autism. Past "Journey with Grace" SENSE Theatre coverage.