By Kara Demler, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator and Holly Brouker, Wellness Coordinator
Going to see the play “Dancing Lessons” at the Barrington Stage in Pittsfield, was a great opportunity for the CIP staff and our new Berkshire students!
The storyline follows the relationship between a Broadway dancer and her neighbor, a professor who has Aspberger’s syndrome.
The dancer, Senga (played by Paige Davis) has suffered an injury which makes her have to choose between giving up her dance career and undergoing a dangerous surgery.
The professor, Ever (played by John Cariani) is being honored by the National Autism Foundation for his achievements and wants Senga to give him dancing lessons so he will be able to look comfortable on the dance floor at the after party.
This request is complicated by the fact that he can’t stand to be touched and she is barely able to stand after her injury. And that is just a fraction of the personal obstacles they face. But they both decide to take a chance and try. And that is the important thing.
Throughout the course of the play the characters learn about each other and from each other. The two struggle to communicate but eventually find common ground while discovering many profound truths about themselves.
Cariani and Davis are two Broadway veterans. They were remarkable in their roles. Their characters were fully developed, layered with nuance and and totally believable. The way they played off each other was riveting. The set, the lighting and the special projections were also first rate.The direction by Julianne Boyd (BSC Artistic Director) was intricate and engaging. And major kudos goes to the playwright, Mark St. Germain, for writing a piece that was both extremely touching and hilariously funny!
For those in the audience who had little or no familiarity with Asperger’s, the play gave a very good idea of the facts about being a non-typical person. Their struggles to conform in a neuro-typical world, as well as the challenges they have to deal with on a regular basis It also gave the audience a feel-good sense that it is OK to be different and that those who are different can be successful, have relationships and be respected for their accomplishments.
As teachers and students at CIP, the play entertained us in an area that we are all engaged in on a daily basis. It provoked positive discussion and affirmations of having similar situations in our lives.
For the students it was a particularly significant experience. Several students said they were “very moved” by the play. One commented that she had never seen a story with someone on the spectrum as a lead character. Another even stated that he “came to the show to be entertained and walked away with a life lesson”.
After the curtain came down, our CIP group was invited to have a talk-back with the actors, which was very informative and exciting for the students. They were especially interested in how Mr. Cariani had prepared for his role. Apparently, he drew heavily from a personal connection for the part and also had some good tips from Michael McManmon (who, by the way, has a cameo part in the show!)
Hopefully, this wonderful piece of theatre will help bridge the gap between society and those on the Spectrum to better understand each other.
“Dancing Lessons” concluded with a happy ending and that is what we wish for all our students here at CIP.