While autism now impacts about one in 68 kids, bullying is pretty much universal. So a unique group of young actors are doing something about it in their own special way.
The Miracle Project has been helping kids with autism and all abilities express themselves through theater and music since 2004. Under the direction of the indomitable Elaine Hall, the troupe creates and performs original musicals that forge friendships, educate, and bring kids out of their shells. The group is now partnering with the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts to present “The Intimidation Game,” an original anti-bullying musical.
It will be the group’s first time performing in such a prominent venue. “To be able to have our kids’ voices heard in such a beautiful, visible environment, it’s just thrilling,” says Hall. The Wallis is a good fit, as its programs are dedicated to showcasing diversity. “They embraced us openly,” Hall says.
When The Miracle Project workshopped the original version of “The Intimidation Game” last year, Hall says performances were sold out. One prominent member of the audience – a representative of the Madeline and Mandell H. Berman Foundation – decided the show needed wider reach, and put together a grant to help fund the production.
The original production was reworked over the summer with the help of a professional writer and composer. Professional designer Elle Walker created the costumes. “Then we invited in professional actors to buddy with our actors with autism,” Hall says. Fourteen actors ages 12-22 with and without autism and other disabilities met beginning in January to workshop and rehearse the new version of the show.
“It was a great show last year. The difference is, we’ve gone deeper,” says Hall. This show addresses what makes people different – anxiety, feeling invisible, not fitting in, stuff common to all kids, not just kids with autism. One newly added character, Logan, doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere, but Hall says “she knows who she is,” which works out for her in the end.
The production is designed to provide tools for children and teens who are being bullied – including a song called “Whatever” about how to stand up to bullies – and to educate others about the problem. Around 80 percent of individuals with disabilities have been bullied at some point, according to Hall.
“The bottom line is that we’re all different and we’re all the same,” she says. “Whenever we can say, ‘me too,’ we bridge that gap.”
Hall says the show includes fun, upbeat songs and recommends it for ages 8 and up. Performances are at 6 p.m. May 22-24 at the Lovelace Studio Theater. Tickets are $20-$30. Reserve seats here.