Broadway Actor Demands Compassion for Autistic Audience Member Who Had Outburst During PlayA. Stout
As a theater junkie, I can tell you that attending a live play is nothing short of magical. It really brings stories to life in a way that movies can’t. Everyone should be able to see a play at least once in their lives. Broadway actor Kelvin Moon Loh agrees with this. That’s why he was so furious at the audience who responded poorly to a boy with autism at his show.
The play being performed was The King and I. During an intense scene, a boy with autism had a loud outburst and drew negative attention from other viewers. The actor heard people whisper to one another, “Why would you bring a child like that to the theater?” Meanwhile, the child’s mother desperately tried to calm him down, but the boy resisted.
At the show’s end, Loh shed tears upon noticing that the mother and son’s seats were vacant. Having taught and befriended a boy with autism in an after school program, the situation broke his heart. He hurried to take action. He had barely shed his costume when he hammered out a lengthy Facebook post in response to the episode, chewing out the unsympathetic audience who “[rallied] against the mother and her child to be removed.”
“When did we as theater people, performers and audience members become so concerned with our own experience that we lose compassion for others?” he challenged his viewers, noting that the whole point of theater was to study the human condition and make ourselves better people because of it.
He also extended respect, support, and sympathy to the mother who brought her son to the performance, calling her “brave” for including her son in the theatrical experience. After all, he said, theater was for everyone, whether differently abled or not.
To Loh’s shock, the post went viral, and parents of children on the spectrum praised him for speaking up.
“I was watching a mother’s nightmare happen,” he explained after the fact, “and I just wanted to have her know that what she’s doing is right in trying to expose her child to the theater, and there are advocates supporting her.”
And these advocates are providing support in very practical ways. Some theaters are providing special performances for kids on the spectrum. It’s not just live theaters doing that, either. Movie theaters are jumping on the bandwagon, too. Thank you to all those who have joined this movement for making the world a more autism-friendly place!