Autism. Not even a word, much less a known condition, until the early 20th century. Is it a mental illness or a physiological one? Is it triggered by allergies? vaccines? trauma? After reading books, watching videos, talking with the parent of an autistic adult, and interviewing a teacher with many years’ experience in the field–the most emphatic thing I can say about autism is I don’t understand it. Is it a personality disorder? A neurological birth defect? Is it hereditary? Curable? Treatable? Is there any hope?
If there is a common theme that we try to incorporate into every all for One production, it is hope. In Frank Higgins’ new drama, Miracles, Tom Hudson thinks that he ran out of hope long ago. His only daughter, Eve, is profoundly autistic and has never spoken. Nonetheless, he and his wife cared for her at home…until his wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Eve is sent to a private boarding school for disabled students. Tom’s wife dies. He tries to get on with his law career.
Then Eve’s teacher, Kate, holds out a completely unexpected beacon of hope: Eve has begun to communicate, through the use of a letter board and with the support of her teacher’s hand on hers. She is spelling out sentences, thoughts…and poems. Can Tom come to visit? Will he sign a contract on Eve’s behalf, so that she can publish a book of her poetry?
The audience follows the emotional ups and downs of these three dynamic individuals: the hope-filled teacher, the skeptical, hope-starved lawyer, and the enigmatic, silent girl. In a number of intriguing fantasy sequences, we also get to see Eve as her father and teacher dream she could be.
Miracles is not intended to be a propaganda piece in support of–or in protest against–the tool of facilitated communication, a therapy which we were surprised to discover has progressed in its 20 years or so from amazing breakthrough to controversial sideshow to despised and rejected fakery. (Incidentally, both my interviewees spoke favorably of FC, from personal experience with it.) Rather, Miracles is an exploration of personhood, and our desires–conscious and unconscious–to understand and perhaps pigeonhole people who are different from ourselves.
Is Eve a savant? Is she a zombie? Or something else entirely? In the tug-of-war over her future, Kate and Tom need to find an answer to the question, “Who is Eve?” Perhaps Eve will lead them to the answer herself.
David Scribner, new to afO, plays Tom Hudson, and Rebekah Fodrey makes her afO debut as Eve. afO veteran actress (and this season’s set designer) Stacy Munsie is Kate Kingsley, Eve’s teacher. all for One is pleased to be presenting this drama to our community in advance of this year’s Autism Awareness Month in April. It is our own hope that we will not only entertain our audiences but lead them to a new and compassionate appreciation for those who live with autism.
Miracles will be performed in the auditorium of the downtown Allen County Public Library, Friday and Saturday, March 11 & 12, 18 & 19, at 8:00 pm, and Sunday, March 13 and 20, and 2:30 pm. Call 260-622-4610 for more information.