It’s the first week of Autism Awareness month, and I’m trying to follow the advice I always give my daughter Samantha when she’s flooded with anxiety. Take deep breaths. . . Slowly. Don’t hyperventilate. Easier said than done when our first week of Autism Awareness month has a crazy-but-wonderful schedule:
Monday was our EPIC 4 Autism cabaret fundraiser, sponsored by HBO. Rehearsal for Samantha and cast members started at noon. Samantha sang a duet with professional Broadway singer Jay Klaitz, participated in two group songs, and gave a touching speech in which she thanked me for all my support over the years. Howard and I didn’t get home till almost 11 PM and Samantha arrived closer to midnight. Co-directed by Jonathan Ivie and Amaker Smith, included performances by Lord Graham Russel of Air Supply, The Banned Sigmund Freud featuring EPIC Board Member Dr. Sam Goldstein and Michael Schoenberg. Katie Ivie, another EPIC Board member also sang with the cast.
Tuesday Samantha and Aubrie rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. (Thank you, Spotify, for offering your spot to us!) We set alarms for 6:45 am and arrived at 8:00 am so EPIC cast members could practice their group song and perform BEFORE ringing the bell for the market to open. Samantha‘s hand was on top of Aubrie’s as they both pressed the button that rings the opening bell. What a special moment that was! Aubrie and Samantha were given Lucite medallions to commemorate the experience, and they signed their names in a book with all the previous (and future!) bell ringers. All of the EPIC Players who attended the opening signed their names on a special wall.
Wednesday we tried to catch our breath, stay current on social media, and prepare for our appearance at the United Nations’ World Autism Awareness Day, where the theme was Empowering Women and Girls on the Autism Spectrum. Two clips from Keep the Change, were shown, followed by, actress Samantha Elisofon, director Rachel Israel and EPIC Players’ Director Aubrie Therrien answering questions about the film and the way that acting enables and empowers individuals with and without disabilities to work together and create professional performance opportunities. Proud mom was in the front row of the audience videotaping.
Thursday United Nations’ World Autism Awareness ran from10 am to 1 pm. At 12:05 pm “Keep the Change” – Women with Autism in Film (Part II) was scheduled to start. Aubrie and I, along with friends and family, all arrived at the UN at 9 am to collect our passes and go through a long and somewhat disorganized security process so we could see the full conference. Samantha wanted to sleep later. (Even with all her energy, my energizer bunny was tired.) My greatest fear at the UN was that Samantha would somehow get lost and/or freak out in the entry process, so I arranged for Rachel to meet her at 10 am and for someone from the UN to smooth their way in. What a relief to see Samantha’s smiling face at 10:16! Next week’s blog will be devoted entirely to our UN experience. Very exciting and such an honor!
Later on Thursday evening, we attended a special screening of Keep the Change for Columbia University students and alumnae, followed by a Q and A. Samantha, her co-star Brandon Polansky, director Rachel Israel, and producer Kurt Enger all received generous honorariums. Although I was exhausted from this week’s exciting-but-grueling schedule of events, I appreciated Columbia University’s warm welcome, along with the school’s obvious pride in Rachel and Kurt, two of their successful film alums.
Friday, nothing is scheduled at the moment. (Mercifully). I’m finishing what I started writing on Wednesday. Mostly, I’m going to upload pictures and links. As I approach dinosaur age, I continue to struggle with technology. (I’m sure it will take longer than I think to do a mostly-pictures blog.) Hopefully, next week I’ll have more time to write about our United Nations experience. But, of course, I will also be gearing up for our trip to Israel for the premiere and screenings of Keep the Change in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.