During the performance on Saturday, August 25, a little boy – maybe four years old – started walking through the audience and landed onstage, looking out at everyone and growling in all directions. Then he walked around and through the audience again, while adults tried to engage him with whispers of “hey little buddy!” and “where’s your mommy?” He wasn’t really responding to anyone, though, and wouldn’t be deterred from his wandering and growling. We learned later that he has autism, which explains why the adults in the audience weren’t able to engage him easily. It turns out that he had run away from his mother, who was standing in the back and afraid to go get him, for fear of causing an even bigger scene.
But we didn’t know that yet, so by the time he landed onstage a second time, front and center, everyone in the audience was starting to worry about this lost little boy. But that’s when the magic happened. The actress Jeannie Saracino, playing Puck with delightful glee, walked right up to the boy and delivered her next line directly to him: “Yet but three? Come one more,/Two of both kinds makes up four./Here she comes, curst and sad….” The little boy was enthralled, and the audience erupted into spontaneous applause as this little unsuspecting actor became a delightful part of the show. In addition, everyone breathed a collective sigh of joy and relief that both the boy and the actors were all going to be OK. Then the little boy sat down in the lap of a kind stranger in the front row for a few minutes, and then he ran off and re-joined his mother. It was the kind of thing that could only happen in live outdoor theatre, where an adventurous child could wander right onto the stage and create a shared moment of magic for audience and actors alike.
This post is part of a series recounting our amazing summer at Touhy Park on the north side of Chicago. Feel free to share your summer memories of Midsommer Flight by commenting on this post!