Just when I thought life couldn’t become any more wonderful, my daughter Samantha Elisofon learned today that she was cast in the SPARK’s Autism Awareness project. Not only that, but she will be paid $1000 for a full day of filming, plus additional fees. (!!) The casting director was looking for: “a man or woman, 20s-30s, high-functioning, self-assured and confident.” After a Skype interview and in-person call-back audition, Samantha was chosen from among five finalists (the only female!) To say she feels thrilled, is an understatement. Her happy dance and squeals of joy were probably loud enough for her twin brother to hear out in Los Angeles. Forget about roses and chocolate, being offered the opportunity to be a paid autism ambassador is the best Valentine’s Day gift Samantha could possibly receive. (Of course it’s also a lovely gift for me, Samantha’s mom too!)
Some of my early readers may remember that Samantha and I dreamed of her becoming an “autism ambassador” after she made the short version of Keep the Change. For years, I fantasized about the possibility of my daughter becoming the Marlee Matlin of autism. (See “Parenting A Young Adult with Autism,” 5/13/17 where I wrote: The possibility seems tantalizingly close… and again in “Launching an Actress with Autism –Summer 2017,” Exceptional Parent). As the first deaf actress to play a deaf character in Children of a Lesser God and win the 1987 Academy Award, Marlee Matlin was our inspiration and role model. We were thrilled to learn that Marlee Matlin will be given an award at the opening night gala of Keep the Change on March 8th at the JCC as part of the NYC Reel Abilities Film Festival. Finally, Samantha and I may actually meet our long-time idol!!! Believe it or not, the KTC gala sold out online in less than 24 hours at $125 per person! Even the more expensive VIP tickets had vanished. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.
Yesterday, ads for Keep the Change began to appear in subways on the Q and 2 trains. (Insert) Samantha’s name isn’t mentioned but her picture on the boardwalk is up above the windows for all to see. The poster will also appear on a bus shelter between Duane and Reed Street. Taxis are going to feature the KTC trailer on Channel 2. We’re having a Sarah Jessica Parker moment multiplied!
Keep the Change Trailer by Kino Lorber
In other exciting news, Samantha will be performing a duet for the EPIC 4 Autism Cabaret on Monday, April 2nd with Broadway singer, Jay Klaitz, who performed in Rock of Ages and will be starring in Getting the Band Band Back Together (?) in July 2018. What a wonderful opportunity for Samantha to learn and grow with a Broadway professional!
Best of all—the icing on the cake—is that I SUCCEEDED in persuading the United Nations to invite Samantha (lead actress) and Rachel Israel (director) of Keep the Change to appear at Autism Awareness Day on April 5th!!! A small portion of the film will be shown followed by questions and discussion with my daughter and the director. But that’s not all. I even managed to arrange for Aubrie Therrien, director of EPIC Players, to talk about how our theater company is training talented actors to break into entertainment and offer more actors with autism a chance to play characters on the spectrum (instead of continuing to give those roles to neurotypical actors). Now Samantha’s dance card is filling up fast (and her mom is over the moon and beyond).
Although I tend to be hopeful and optimistic—especially lately—I never celebrated a more joyful and exciting Valentine’s Day. Even as I type these words, I can’t help wondering if Samantha’s story is too good to be true. All I know is that if I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me up.