Giving a performance in front of others can be a nervous racking experience. One where even the slightest change in the norm can throw you off course and lead to a failed performance. If you have ever been in that situation your will understand there is nothing worse than being interrupted while you’re in full flow.
Now imagine you were interrupted in the middle of a Broadway show performance! Unfortunately, for the actor Kelvin Moon Loh this became reality. Perhaps best known for his role in the comedic musical web series ‘City of Dreams’, Kelvin was in the midst of his performance for the Broadway show ‘The King and I’ when a young autistic child shouted out and interrupted his performance.
The mother of the child had no option but to remove him from the theatre. With ticket prices for the show reaching up to $6,000 is it understandable that certain theatre goers weren’t best pleased with the situation, and maybe even had the right to be annoyed? Surely if anyone had the right to be upset it would be Kelvin Moon Loh? Well, in what has become a viral sensation no one saw coming, Kelvins response letter suggests otherwise!
In an attempt to reach out to the people affected and shed light on the situation, Kelvin responded on social media with the following;
“I am angry and sad,”
“Just got off stage from today’s matinee and yes, something happened. Someone brought their autistic child to the theatre.’’
‘’That being said- this post won’t go the way you think it will.’’
You think I will admonish that mother for bringing a child who yelped during a quiet moment in the show. You think I will herald an audience that yelled at this mother for bringing their child to the theatre. You think that I will have sympathy for my own company whose performances were disturbed from a foreign sound coming from in front of them.
Instead, I ask you- when did we as theatre people, performers and audience members become so concerned with our own experience that we lose compassion for others?
The theatre to me has always been a way to examine/dissect the human experience and present it back to ourselves. Today, something very real was happening in the seats and, yes, it interrupted the fantasy that was supposed to be this matinee but ultimately theatre is created to bring people together, not just for entertainment, but to enhance our lives when we walk out the door again.
It so happened that during “the whipping scene”, a rather intense moment in the second act, a child was heard yelping in the audience. It sounded like terror. Not more than one week earlier, during the same scene, a young girl in the front row- seemingly not autistic screamed and cried loudly and no one said anything then. How is this any different?
His voice pierced the theatre. The audience started to rally against the mother and her child to be removed. I heard murmurs of “why would you bring a child like that to the theatre?”. This is wrong. Plainly wrong.
Because what you didn’t see was a mother desperately trying to do just that. But her son was not compliant. What they didn’t see was a mother desperately pleading with her child as he gripped the railing refusing- yelping more out of defiance. I could not look away. I wanted to scream and stop the show and say- “EVERYONE RELAX. SHE IS TRYING. CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT SHE IS TRYING???!!!!” I will gladly do the entire performance over again. Refund any ticket because-
For her to bring her child to the theatre is brave. You don’t know what her life is like. Perhaps, they have great days where he can sit still and not make much noise because this is a rare occurrence. Perhaps she chooses to no longer live in fear, and refuses to compromise the experience of her child. Maybe she scouted the aisle seat for a very popular show in case such an episode would occur. She paid the same price to see the show as you did for her family. Her plan, as was yours, was to have an enjoyable afternoon at the theatre and slowly her worst fears came true.
I leave you with this- Shows that have special performances for autistic audiences should be commended for their efforts to make theatre inclusive for all audiences. I believe like Joseph Papp that theatre is created for all people. I stand by that and also for once, I am in a show that is completely FAMILY FRIENDLY. The King and I on Broadway is just that- FAMILY FRIENDLY- and that means entire families- with disabilities or not. Not only for special performances but for all performances. A night at the theatre is special on any night you get to go.
And no, I don’t care how much you spent on the tickets.”
The fact that his response letter clearly has the potential to alienate certain people who don’t agree with his message, shows just how brave and passionate this response is. It was clearly written from the heart and delivers a powerful message, not only to those involved that night but to everyone reading it.
It is refreshing to see social media used in this positive manner, especially in today’s world where social media is often used to stir up unnecessary hatred. I believe we can all learn a lesson or two from Kelvins letter and implement these into our own life.