Mari Sandifer wanted to give her son, Jackson, the same opportunity as his older sister, Betsy.
Jackson, a Carmel High School sophomore, has Asperger syndrome, a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. Betsy, a 2017 CHS graduate, is a theater arts major at Ball State.
“Betsy is extremely talented. She had the lead when Grace did ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ She was Belle,” Sandifer said. “He saw her get a standing ovation and he wanted that. I thought how many of these kids don’t have a platform. Carmel is a very competitive town, and wouldn’t it be neat were there are not tryouts, you’re going to be in the show. That’s where this came from, just wanting to give all the kids a chance to show their talent.”
The Carmel Spectrum Players will present “A Night of Cabaret,” featuring acts by children and young adults on the autism spectrum. The performances are set for 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at The Cat, 254 Veterans Way, Carmel. At least 11 acts are expected.
“Jack is going to sing a song and he also is going to sing a duet with his sister,” Sandifer said.
Jack has performed before in community theater productions.
Sandifer is nearly done writing a book called “Jacksonville,” which is about experiences with her son.
“It’s about my journey and thinking something might be wrong and coming to terms with that because he was so mild it was hard to accept at first,” Sandifer said. “I was thinking he might grow out of it. It’s really just to help mothers and fathers who think their children might be on the spectrum and letting them know they are not alone.”
Sandifer is the founder of the Jacksonville Foundation, which is dedicated to raising autism awareness.
CHS senior Caiden Wetherald, who said he was diagnosed with high-functioning autism in first grade, will read a poem he wrote called “Too Far Gone” and will dance to a hip-hop song called “Lottery.”
“I heard about it through my mom and I really wanted to perform and I like to dance,” Wetherald said. “I wrote a poem a long time ago when I was going through depression. For me, it’s my way of socializing. I’m not very good with social skills. It’s always a struggle and try to do my best and help people be aware. My whole goal is to be a therapist and work with those on the spectrum.”
Wetherald said he wants to help mentor younger students in the show.
“I’m looking forward to the whole event,” he said. “It’s going to be an amazing thing to watch and be a part of.”
Tickets are $5. For more, visit carmelspectrumplayers.org.