My daughter Samantha Elisofon will be performing her FIRST one woman show on June 21.
How does she feel about it? “Thrilled to pieces but also anxious and worried. I’ve always performed with others, never all by myself.” That’s the edited summary of her feelings.
I should know. I’m her momager. When Samantha says she’s anxious, that’s an understatement. From her earliest rehearsals of ANY show, Samantha is a perfectionist. With every stumble, forgotten phrase or slight crack in her voice, she has a mini-fit. “This is too hard. I can’t do it. I don’t want to suck…”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, I try to tell her. “There’s a reason why your theater groups rehearse for several months. Does everyone know their lines perfectly in the first week of rehearsal? Does anyone?”
“No,” Samantha replies reluctantly.
“So be patient with yourself. No one cares whether you remember every word in your narrative. Nobody will even know the difference! It’s your story. You can improvise and you’ll be wonderful.”
My reassurances work better on some days than others. On Tuesdays when Samantha rehearses with Jonathan Ivie, her voice coach, he shares the herculean task of persuading her not to be so hard on herself.
“But I don’t have enough time!” she insists, even when the show is more than a MONTH away. What if I can’t learn the narrative?”
We’ve been through this same routine before every performance. “You can and you will. Just practice, practice, practice. When has that NOT worked out for you?”
“Never!” She’s starting to sound more like her confident self, winning the battle the way it always does.
But the next day Samantha goes into a tizzy. “What if I stumble and need to look at my flash cards?” She doesn’t remember my pep talk from yesterday, or the one from the day before that. How many years have we had some version of this same conversation? Living with Samantha can feel like Groundhog Day—with a temporary respite between shows and auditions. All the confidence that should have accrued from all the years of overcoming challenges and enjoying spectacular success seems to slip through her fingers like sand. (Think of me as the beach, except that I become exhausted.)
I share with Samantha that it’s normal to have doubts and worry. All the way through college I worried that I would never be able to write another A paper and that my favorite professor would be disappointed. Most of the time—but not always—I was able to live up to my high expectations. Still, not every paper could be better than the last one. Samantha cannot expect every performance to be her best. She must accept that nobody is ever perfect, and she will NOT be the first human to achieve the impossible. But she can and will be wonderful. “You don’t have to be perfect for people to fall in love with you. Just do your best and be your awesome self.”
Most young women performing in a show would be eager to pick out the perfect dress for their show. Samantha is more concerned about the color. She wants it to be green, her favorite color, and she’s only willing to devote an hour or two to the project at the end of the day. If we can’t find a green dress, she’s willing to settle for pink, her second favorite color. She thinks it will be easy-peasy.
I fear that we’re embarking on mission nearly-impossible. In addition to color and fit, the dress MUST be simple and comfortable enough to accommodate her autism. That means no bows to tie, no confusing straps, and no rows of teeny tiny buttons. No long gowns to trip over and no mini dresses that will hike up and be embarrassingly short.
I spent hours combing the internet to find something glamorous and affordable. I ordered some recycled dresses from thredsup. I checked out Macy’s, Zara, Saks and Bloomingdales. Finally, I narrowed the field to a couple of dresses at Bloomingdales, where the saleswoman and I persuaded Samantha that the pink sequin dress looked better on her than the one in lime green.
Next week we will be looking for dressy shoes or sandals. Samantha is not crazy about heels. (Who can blame her?) Most flats will look funny with the dress, so hopefully we will find something with a small kitten heel. Good luck to us.
More importantly, I’m trying to help the producer sell out the Triad. Samantha’s show will be special and uplifting at a time when we’re reeling from Covid, war in the Ukraine, gun violence, a plunging stock market and now Monkey Pox! How much more misery can we absorb? If you’re looking for a reason to feel optimistic about anything in the world, do yourself a favor and buy tickets for “My Resilience and Inspirations.”
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Dare I say she’ll offer some much-needed inspiration and joie de vivre at a time when we could really use it?