Friday, December 14, 2007

Charlie Brown: A character for everyone

Last night, my son's art and music organization for people with Asperger's Syndrome and high functioning autism went to see You Are a Good Man Charlie Brown. It was a delightful musical and I think adults and children alike enjoyed the show. My boy, diagnosed with high functioning autism, loved the songs. After one song, I'm sure he pleased the cast with his very audible "Yeah!" His voice could be heard above all else. It's pretty cute now, but we hushed him because we know that it won't be quite as cute when his voice gets deeper. It's sad to squelch such joy. I know this, but it's really for his own good.

Anyway, I've always liked the late Charles Shultz's characters--especially Snoopy. (He's just so happy and imaginative.) I have read that every single character was inspired by some part of the cartoonist's personality. For example, the blue blanket toting Linus represents Shultz's philosophical side. Charlie Brown is the aspect of Shultz that suffers from either social anxiety or just plain old social exasperation.

Supposedly, Shultz as a youngster really did admire a red-headed girl and really did get rejected by her. There is a great scene in the musical where Charlie Brown is eating his lunch by himself while glancing at his crush who is in a group of girls. She looks back. What does Charlie Brown do? He puts his lunch bag over his head. She snickers and points. In the meantime, Lucy and Sally walk by discussing dresses. Lucy draws one where Charlie Brown's face would be. When Charlie Brown comes out of hiding he wonders why the little red-headed girl is not looking at him anymore. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

I don't think Charlie Brown has Asperger's syndrome although I can see people with Asperger's or high functioning autism going through similar motions with their crushes. Charlie Brown's dismay with social difficulty continues throughout the musical. In another scene Charlie Brown is the only one who doesn't get a Valentine. When giving one to Lucy, he says "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Valentines Day." In true Lucy fashion, she sort of snorts and then walks away without saying thank you for the card he gave her. He is further dismayed when he discovers that his dog, Snoopy, has received a handful of Valentines.

I think things turn out well in the end for Charlie Brown. The last song on the program was titled "Happiness." However, I missed the ending due to the fact we need to go back home to get our nine-year-old and almost five-year-old to bed. As it was, we tucked them in an hour later than usual and we, the parents were absolutely exhausted.

The musical was located in another city. It takes about a 40 to 50 minute drive to get to that city, which is to the east of Mt. Pleasant. We left at 6 p.m. to make sure we arrived with time to spare before the musical began at 7:30 p.m. It was 8:30 when it was time for the show's twenty-minute intermission. Glancing at that program, the parents from our organization realized there was probably it would be at least an hour before the show would to go yet.

Although our children all enjoyed the show, all of us parents in our group decided to leave at intermission because our children had school the next day. Why did I, the organizer, pick that time? I'm not really a blockhead. I knew the challenges involved with the timing, but there was rhyme to my reason. We ended up with that time and date in order to benefit from a rather extraordinary discount on all the tickets--a discount for which I'm am still very grateful.

The goal of the director (of my son's organization) and I (the field trip coordinator) is to keep field trips limited to under five dollars per individual so that families who are struggling financially can attend. A Saturday matinee time was my first choice, but I quickly realized via communication with my generous and helpful contact that I was asking for too much. The Thursday show was really the only option we had in order to maintain the goal. Oh well, an hours worth of Charlie Brown is better than no Charlie Brown at all.


Lee in NC said...

I have read your blogs and really get a lot out of them. I have a child with autism who is 5 years old. He, too, enjoys shows with singing! Only tried a movie once and we are not brave enough for a play. But one day we will. Thanks for relaying your stories and advice!

J said...

I appreciate your support. It is great encouragment to know I have a regular reader.

Last night was the first play/musical my nine-year-old has attended. We were encouraged by his response.

It's great that your son loves music. Has he ever seen the preschool cartoon Backyardingans? My guy loves that show, which features a lot of singing. It's on the cable channel Noggin, but there are a few DVDs in video stores now. I wish you, your son and family well.

Scott Oswald said...

My 5 year old daughter has SEVERE autism. The only cartoon she will watch is Charlie Brown. She will not even pay attention to any other cartoon. I have yet to figure out why. Is it the voices used? The animation aspects? I am grateful of all the cartoons it could be it's "CB". educational,inspirational, and christian. Thanks