What’s an “actorvist?” That’s the word Pace University’s “30 under 30” catalog of accomplished young alumnae used to describe my daughter Samantha Elisofon. As an actress, singer and autism advocate, Samantha jumps (almost!) seamlessly from one stage to the next, eagerly pursuing the chance to share her voice and her story with the world. She wants everyone to know that people with autism can be joyful, passionate and warm human beings who want what neurotypical people want: love, acceptance and respect.
In her latest theatrical performance—and first ever with an entirely neurotypical cast—Samantha appeared in an offbeat, off-off Broadway production of Macbeth (Beth) as the First Witch. In my role as her momager, I was amazed to see Samantha learn all of her lines and perform Shakespeare with only about six rehearsals in which no accommodations were made for her autism. At the same time, she was also performing in EPIC Players Little Shop of Horrors, which ended just before Beth started.
Somehow Samantha managed not to trip over the yarn that served to divide the Beth stage from the audience in this modest “theater in the round.” Nor was Samantha bothered by the little piles of stones on the floor, and she managed to step around them more gingerly than I would have expected. The floors creaked loudly beneath the actors’ feet. Above the actors’ heads, another event seemed to include dancers leaping and jumping enough to make the ceiling vibrate. Outside, sirens blared and horns honked, yet none of these distracting stimuli seemed to bother any of the actors (including one with autism!) The surprise take-away for me was that Samantha performed as well or better than her neurotypical cast members. I was very proud of her!
On Tuesday, July 2nd Samantha sang at The Triad in Jivie’s Studio Cabaret with three other performers, including fellow EPIC cast member Gideon Pianko. My daughter sang six solos: “Grateful,” “Think of Me” (Phantom of the Opera), “I Hope I Get it” (Chorus Line), “I Feel Pretty” (West Side Story), “Till There Was You” (Beatles) and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Carousel). Not to brag (but how can I resist?), Samantha was truly amazing, demonstrating her vocal range while radiating her own special joy. The show can be seen in its entirety at http://triadnyc.live and Samantha’s performances are available by scrolling to 15:14. 45:17, 1:13:16, 1:15:13.
While performing in Beth, Samantha also started rehearsals for EPIC’s Playwriting Festival, scheduled for July 26th-28th. She will appear in 4 of EPIC’s plays (including one she helped write with EPIC cast members in their Playwriting class). There will also be auditions on July 11th for EPIC’s Production of Peter and the Star Catcher (12/6 -12/15) and on July 16th for EPIC’s Fall Cabaret, “Songs About Ourselves,” scheduled for September 22nd.
In addition, Samantha will be performing with her vocal coach Jonathan Ivie at the Korean embassy on December 3rd for International Disabilities Day. The Korean embassy will be hosting a reception for MITKA (Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Korea, Australia). In addition to the honor of performing before an international community, Samantha will be paid for her appearance.
Speaking of paid performances, Samantha is hoping to be invited as an inspirational speaker at schools and businesses as well as performing at children’s birthday parties. My daughter likes to be a VERY busy bee!
Of course Samantha will also make time to appear on TV and in film. As her momager, I’m hoping that she will one day earn enough money as an “actorvist” to live independently.
If a mother and daughter are going to share the same dream, why not dream big?