I want everyone on my team to be able to read a script, right?

Until almost two decades ago, every theater production of “The Music Man” included a person with developmental disabilities as part of the cast. Even when founding member Jeffrey Thies took over the International Theatre Company in Washington in 1995, he set the standard. When ITC was announced, the local board members who pledged financially hailed him as a talented director, actor and educator, all without hesitation.

Then his children, twins Matthew and Kyle, were diagnosed with autism and needed specific accommodations at school. Michael Glaser, the theater’s executive director, was on board from the start and was soon joined by Thornton Wilder, Jr., the legendary children’s book writer. If something more was needed, to sign on Mimi Long, now a senior at Georgetown University and a board member, or Luisa Dviedi, a theater activist and artist, just got easier.

Everything changed. As the twins bloomed at theater camps, Matthew’s development became more gradual. Kyle was the standout, excelling in tap and on the stage, his mind sharper than that of his brother.

Confronted with a musical that required physical theater skills, Matthew emerged as his brother’s adversary. This provided certain advantages when ITC performed “Music Man,” and, in a good-cop/bad-cop kind of way, I became his uncle.

Even though he was predisposed to acting, Matthew had difficulty with the rough-and-tumble. He has a graying streak of stubble that he can’t quite erase. At age 12, Matthew struggled so much at a one-day company rehearsal that on his first day of serious acting training, the ITC director fired him. She did this in a face-to-face meeting, not even bothering to ask, “What’s wrong?” I guess it did wonders for his attitude.

For us, the ITC canceled “The Music Man” and replaced it with a staged reading of “I Slept With Authority,” about a gifted and distinguished student with an autism-spectrum disorder.

I remember Kyle, then a junior high School of the Arts student, sitting there with his mother one afternoon. Matthew had reached out. “Kyle, is your sibling a great actor?” “Yes,” said Kyle. “And why not get him in your show?” Before she could reply, Matthew looked off into the distance.

As I dug through various posts with my keyboard, I hoped Matthew would now manage to read as part of the cast. That night Matthew gave me the standard of $10, and the ITC made a contribution. The very next day, we repeated the process. Kyle soon had a name on the Idsey Award. A year later, he was our as-yet-unsuccessful contestant in the fourth annual Olney Theatre Award for Dance-Contest Talent. And that was it.

Some of us are conducting recruiting drives in Washington now, and we will be putting out the word: You want the disabled to be part of your company, but there is no disabled casting. Will the producers or team at Shaw Theatre see this, and if so, how will we tell them? How will we convince these bar owners and waiters and waitresses of our own sincerity? We, who offer youth and adults with disabilities an authentic, beautiful way to express themselves, encourage these studios in asking us to put ourselves out there. This used to be our target audience, and it is our future.

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