5 Reasons I Love Musical Theatre

It’s summer in St. Louis, or at least the 95 degree temperatures make it feel that way, and summer here means lots of cool outdoor events. One of my favorites is seeing shows at The St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre, otherwise known as The MUNY. They put on shows all summer, a new show every week, and if you’re willing to sit in the nosebleed seats, it’s even free!

This year the lineup is Jerome Robbinns’ Broadway, The Wiz, Singin’ in the Rain, Jersey Boys, Annie, Gypsy, and Meet Me in St. Louis- not a bad lineup!

We saw our first show of the season yesterday, and it reminded me how much I love live shows. So here are all the things that my autistic heart loves about musical theatre

  1. It’s Sensory Friendly: At least when it comes to performances. I don’t know about you, but I need earplugs to make it through movie theatre previews most days. (in fact, the movie Dunkirk was so painfully loud, I swore off movies until it was out of theatres). Concerts are also loud, although they can be loud in a good way, and often have lighting effects that make me kind of nauseous. Live theatre is great because it’s not prohibitively loud, unnecessarily bright, and more and more often sensory friendly shows are being offered! The only negative sensory thing I experience is having to sit still for a couple of hours- and I can’t really complain about that.
  2. Orchestral Music Gives Me Goosebumps: For most of my life, I was unaware that not everyone gets intense goosebumps and tingles when they listen to classical music. And I was astounded. I couldn’t imagine an existence where Vivaldi didn’t send chills up and down my spine, or where the score from Jurassic Park didn’t give me full body tingles. I always thought when people said that a piece “moved them to tears”, they were describing how. damn. good. music makes their body feel. For me, this sensation is the best type of body stim, and musicals are basically just 2 hours of stimmy bliss.
  3. The Themes are Universal: Relating to people can be tough. Sometimes when I’m in social situations, I find myself just smiling and nodding along- mostly because I’m either confused about other people’s experiences, or I just can’t relate. Real life is hard, but musicals are easy. They are about human things that everyone has felt before. Feeling oppressed? Les Mis. Feeling Misunderstood? Wicked. Family Troubles? Lion King. Mental Health Issues? Dear Evan Hanson. Cats? Cats! Sometimes it’s really just to just sit back and relax- without having to interpret the world.
  4. The Characters Literally Sing Their Feelings at You: That’s right, I said it. No figuring out facial expression or body language, no sorting out metaphors, and absolutely no dealing with the consequences of guessing wrong. I love knowing exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling because it lets me immerse myself into the story- something that doesn’t happen too often in real life. Can you imagine: you’re in a complicated situation, and you’re trying to figure out if you’ve said or done something wrong, and all of a sudden, the other person breaks into song? YOU DIDN’T VALIDATE MY FEELINGS EARLIER AND I FEEL LIKE YOU DON’T CAAAAAAAARE! It would certain make life more interesting!
  5. All the Feels: Sometimes I have trouble identifying my emotions. Am I upset? Am I overwhelmed? Am I sad? And I know for me, not knowing how I’m feeling can lead to a build up of emotions, and I will eventually explain. Figuratively, of course. So, at regular intervals, I find that I just need a good cry. I don’t even have to by crying about my life and my problems- musicals let me cry about other people’s problems. Key examples include: Do You Hear the People Sing (Les Mis), Wait for It (Hamilton), For Good (Wicked), and Goodbye Love (Rent). There are many more. Seussical, which is a funny show based on the works of Dr. Seuss has a song that makes me cry. Maybe I’m too emotional, but at least I’ve got an outlet, right?

So there you go! Now that you know how I’ll be spending my summer nights, I think it’s only fair that I know about your plans. Tell me what you’re looking forward to doing this summer, even if it’s just saying at home and enjoying your air conditioner!

6 Word Stories pt. 13

So if the stories referencing hats, scarves, sweaters, and heated cat beds weren’t enough of a clue, it’s been cold in St. Louis this week! My POTS has been pretty flair-y this week. I overdid it a couple of times, but it was so worth it! We saw a concert, and Jess won tickets to see a musical at our local theatre! So yeah, I’m spending most of my time with my legs propped up consuming unnatural amounts of sodium. And to add insult to injury, the cats would rather sleep in their heated bed than snuggle with me. Traitors!

  1. Sweaters, scarves, and hats, oh my!
  2. NaNoWriMo is great for stress! Not.
  3. Heated cat bed 1, me 0.
  4. Of course chronic illness exacerbates autism.
  5. Do big crowds know they’re loud?
  6. Trying board games for sensory distraction.

8 Most Important Special Interests

I don’t know if this list is going to be relatable for everyone. I haven’t met enough autistic people to know if they have some special interests that were more important to them than others. While the current special interests are usually the ones in the front of my mind, I acknowledge that there are some that shaped who I am.

The Roman Empire: This is kind of an odd special interest, but it’s even more odd when you’re 6. This is one of the earliest special interests I can remember, and it’s one of the most important. I dropped out of school in the first grade, and was home schooled through the rest of elementary school. Being in a classroom setting wasn’t working for me, and after a few months, I declared that I was done, I was never going to school again. The main reason I gave (besides that I was bored and that the teacher was stupid), was that none of the kids wanted to talk about what I wanted to talk about. Which makes sense now, they were 6, they wanted to talk about care bears and power rangers. The penal code of the Roman court wasn’t really on their radar. This SpIn is so important to me because if I hadn’t had it, things might have been different. I might have decided to stay in school and that would have changed everything.

The Holocaust: What 4th grader reads obsessively about the Holocaust? *points at self* this one. I was a pretty secluded kid. Home-schooled, not many friends. My world consisted of my books and my piano and my cats. The Holocaust blew my mind. I gave myself stomach aches trying to figure out how so many people, so many countries, so many governments could let something like that happen. It temporarily broke my empathy button. I had to disconnect from everything in order to keep reading. And when I realized that that exact tactic was how many Nazis were able to commit so many atrocities, I broke. But I kept reading. I still read. I can’t help myself. Even though it makes me sick, even though it gives me nightmares, trying to reconcile what I know about humanity with what happens during holocausts, or massacres, or exterminations is something I can’t turn my back on.

Star Wars: This one is more pleasant, I promise you, in fact, it might even border on heartwarming. My dad is a huge nerd, and by nature, nurture, or some combination of the two, so am I. He introduced me to Star Wars very young, and made sure that I not only appreciated the visual effects and the lightsaber battles, but the complexity of the story as well. We talked about what makes a Hero, and how people aren’t all good or all bad. He showed me the Expanded Universe novels (which have recently been un-canonized, which I have major issues with, but that’s another story.) and didn’t care when I stole his books before he got to read them. He wasn’t always the most present parent, but this was what we bonded over, and I’m so thankful that George Lucas gave me a platform for connecting with him.

Bullet Journals: Do you know what a Bullet Journal is? I didn’t until recently, and when I got interested and went looking for information, it mostly seemed like hyper organized people who had 5 hours a day to make straight lines. Now, as someone who has a decent amount of Executive Dysfunction, this was not something that seemed doable, much less enjoyable. But then I saw all the rulers and the stickers and the markers and I decided to try anyway. And it turns out, that this thing I’ve made that partially resembles a bullet journal is really helpful. It acts as a visual schedule that I can doodle on! I can keep track of my moods and my self-care, and it helps me do activities at home instead of just interneting all day. All in all this special interest has made me more independent, which is why it’s so important. And hey, I learned that I’m great at hand lettering fonts, who knew?

Autism: I think this is a pretty common one, especially for people like me who were diagnosed (or self-diagnosed) later in life. It’s like you finally had something that explained everything in your life, and you had to learn more, and more and more. And I think some of that is processing everything that’s going on in your life. I mean, I write three times a week about autism, so clearly I’m still processing it, and also, I’m still fascinated by it. Through all my research I’ve found a community that I think will shape my future. I hope, anyway.

Sondheim the Birthday Concert: This is very specific. It fills a category of special interest that nothing else has ever done. Stephen Sondheim is a composer, responsible for shows like West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods. Every few years, the Broadway community throws him a giant birthday filled with performances from his body of work. I caught a rerun on PBS one day, and this 2 hour long special became my comfort show. I watch it when I’m happy, or upset, or confused. I go months watching it every day. I know the songs and the dancing and the jokes all by heart, and I never get tired of it. I don’t know why it affects me the way it does. But in a world where I often have trouble feeling safe, this PBS special is my comfort space.

Knitting: This one is going to be short and sweet. I learned how to knit in high school, after my parents got frustrated that I had taken the TV remote apart. Again. (clearly teenage me needed a Tangle). Knitting was my first real stim toy. It was something I specifically went to when I needed to use my hands for something, instead of chewing my fingers or taking apart remotes. I also discovered that can be a great tactile stim! Alpaca and silk, in particular are so so so soft! And fiber festivals are a great way to touch soft yarn, soft animals, and watch really cool demonstrations, like sheep herding dogs, and spinning wheels! (Have you ever seen a spinning wheel at work? It’s entrancing.)

Musicals: Musical have been a constant in my life. Both my parents were fans, and I’ve had a continuous special interest in musicals for as long as I can remember. Sure the specific musical changes, Annie and Oliver when I was a kid, Les Miserables and Rent as a teenager, and as an adult, Wicked, Hamilton, and Into the Woods. Needless to say, there’s always a musical soundtrack playing in our car. Besides the fact that musicals have been a special interest constant, they’ve also contributed to my understanding of other people. A lot of media types, TV and Movies especially, rely really highly on nonverbal communication. Not that I don’t enjoy them, but sometimes I get a little lost. But in musicals, if someone is happy, they sing about it! And if their heart is breaking, they sing about it! They describe every thought and every feeling out loud, and this makes the world and the characters more relatable. In fact, between the orchestral score and the relating, it’s rare than I make it through a musical without crying.

This list in particular is something I’d be interested in hearing thoughts about. Do people who aren’t me having special special interests? I’m really just curious.