It's more than a little worrisome when a Broadway actor begins a Facebook status by saying: "I am angry and sad. Just got off stage from today's matinee and . . . someone brought their autistic child to the theater."
After all, actors have been known to react pretty passionately about potential disturbances to their craft. (Remember Christian Bale's rant?) But when Kelvin Moon Loh, a cast member in the Broadway production of The King and I, wrote a long post on Facebook about a child with autism who'd "disrupted" his performance earlier that day, it went much differently than you might expect.
"I ask you — when did we as theater people, performers and audience members become so concerned with our own experience that we lose compassion for others?" questioned the actor, who went on to discuss the angry response of the audience when the child began yelping during a violent scene. "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," he described. "His voice pierced the theater. 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 theater?' This is wrong. Plainly wrong."
The actor went on to express his frustration with the audience's response. "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???!!!!'" Going even further, Kelvin declared that he would happily perform the play over again if it meant that people would be less uptight and hateful in response to such a "disturbance."
In a move that we deem worthy of a standing ovation, Kelvin declared that theater is not just reserved for people who can sit quietly through shows. "I believe like Joseph Papp that theater is created for all people," the actor concluded. "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 . . . and no, I don't care how much you spent on the tickets."
The actor's entire post is worthy of a read, which is why it's been shared widely among Broadway types and special-needs families alike. Hopefully this inclusive, compassionate attitude spreads within the fine arts community, allowing families of all sorts to enjoy creative performances together without discrimination. Bravo, Kelvin!