To the entire crew of 2019’s An Evening With the ‘Rents:
I wanted to offer the most sincere thank you on behalf of everyone who attended this year’s performance, even though I don’t think words can fully capture my gratitude and admiration.
Because of your hard work, sacrifice, and courage in the face of self-doubt, you changed people in ways that may not become apparent to them without the passage of time. You conveyed joy and understanding about an impossible thing that we can never fully grasp and impacted an entire audience of people. You stood by yourself in front of strangers, and shared highly personal experiences that gave them the greatest of human gifts: Laughter.
You made us all laugh and even caused some of us to tear up…But you made everyone think. You gave people an escape from their world by allowing them to enter yours, even if only for a brief moment.
They can never know your sacrifices, but trust that they get that your process was not easy. Not even your fellow performers could know what kind of noisy day you had before you came to rehearsals at the theatre. Maybe your job was stressing you out. Maybe you were approaching an absolute breaking point of some horrendous argument between you and members of your family. Maybe moments felt as though your personal life was starting to crumble around you and you absolutely DID NOT have an excuse to take time pursuing this abstract thing that you knew you wanted to do but couldn’t really explain.
But I was there and saw what happened: When those house lights dimmed and that curtain parted, you managed to leave all of those little noises behind and I personally witnessed each one of you becoming yourselves. You believed in it.
You may never be given the chance to understand what your performance did for some of us that night…but maybe your sacrifices and bravery inspired people to want to become a risk taker in their own way – maybe daring themselves to chase a chance at being a comedian, or an actor, or (at a minimum) a person who recognizes that there is art and compassion during the most tedious of their daily moments. If nothing else, know that your experience encouraged others to think about their lives differently and you changed their existence for the better.
Many of us count ourselves as your family members and friends, and we couldn’t be prouder of you. I guarantee that some of you felt that you didn’t give your best performance or maybe there were a few things that didn’t go the same way that you had envisioned while practicing your material in front of the bathroom mirror. In the days that followed, some of you caught yourselves sliding into a place where you doubted your talents and began thinking that that this thing was your last and only show. I sincerely pray that this isn’t the mindset you carried away, but rest assured that it might be the only experience that all artists endure.
Remember – always – that YOU are the one that got on that stage.
YOU are the one that succeeded in doing something only a few can say they’ve ever done.
YOU performed your thoughts with nothing for your creative soul to hide behind.
The thunderous applause could never fully convey our appreciation…our admiration…for your blind willingness to accomplish a thing we may all believe we could do, too, but perhaps never will.
THIS is the reason for this letter to you.
My proudest thought is that you will never forget those feelings…That unsteady balance of building your humor to be a tall courage in the face of every seemingly tremendous challenge for your families, your friendships, yourselves.
My greatest hope is that you envision each of those challenges to come as a different stage with its own audience, and that you continue to accomplish the magic of bringing people together through shared experiences while, on occasion, giving them all a smiling middle finger that only you can see.
I am looking forward to your next show…
Your biggest fan,
Keenan Stump, Ph.D. is a Speech/Language Pathologist and the owner of New Balloon Therapy Services in the greater Kansas City area. An Evening with the ‘Rents evolved six years ago thanks to his brilliance and his huge heart. For more information about future events, visit the event webpage. To view the impressive comedy bits from these brave parents and adults with ASD, visit the ‘Rents YouTube channel.