Can a Person with Down Syndrome win a Tony Award?

The keynote speaker, Dakota Johns, asked in his speech, then he asked us to share this goal with those sitting around us. One person at our table said, “To write a book,” another said, “Take a family vacation.”

My son, Marcus, said, “To win a Tony Award.”

This is the first I’ve heard Marcus articulate this specific goal, although it didn’t surprise me. It may have surprised the others at the table. Then again maybe not, because Dakota Johns, the young man giving the keynote about how to achieve your dreams, has Down syndrome, as does Marcus.

Both of them have faced challenges and both of them have big dreams. Dakota is giving speeches around the country and Marcus has already published his first storybook for children, Black Day: The Monster Rock Band. So why not?

Why not a Tony Award?

After all, Marcus has been working on writing for Broadway for, well, about as long as I can remember. Plus, this year’s Tony Awards seemed to speak directly to aspiring young people, by repeatedly spotlighting two things:

Possibility and Support

From the opening number, which focused on the idea of a young boy and his dreams, to the diversity of performers both featured and nominated. The awards were a welcome breath of reach. The theme that no matter who you are, in this realm, your dreams are possible, frankly brought me to tears. Tears of recognition for the possible.

The other common theme was support. This came from two very different places in our communal experience. The first because the Tony Awards were held on Sunday June 12th, the day our country reeled from the horrific massacre in Orlando. Frank Langella’s acceptance speech included, “Today in Orlando, we had a hideous dose of reality. I urge you, Orlando, to be strong, because I’m standing in a room full of the most generous human beings on Earth, and we will be with you every step of the way.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, an icon worth emulating, accepted his award with a sonnet that included, “We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. We rise and fall and light from dying embers remembrance that hope and love last longer. And love is love is love is love is love is love…”

This support as a community, a palpable and essential social consciousness, encourages healing and growing and improving.

The other kind of support that was evident was the personal support that winners acknowledged. Daveed Diggs recounted that, “My mom gave me permission to do something that everyone else wasn’t doing and my dad supported me and made it possible, and I think a lot of us are here because people in our lives did that.”

Thomas Kail said, “I’m here because so many people said, ‘Why not this?’” He also reminded us all to keep telling stories.

That is a way of thinking that Marcus embraces. He’s not afraid to try what he loves. He’s not afraid to visualize his dreams. He’s not afraid of failure and, more importantly, he’s not afraid of success. He says, “Alright, I’ll try.”

The thing is, there are very few winners without a team.

Acceptance speeches go on because there are so many people who are part of the “winner.” Olympic medalists do not get to the podium alone. Because Marcus has an intellectual disability, assumptions are more often made about his “cant’s” than his “cans” — which is a shame, because his talents are valid and beautiful and deserve to be celebrated. Everyone needs a team; everyone needs support, that does not discount what each person can and does with their own talents.

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This year Marcus watched the Tony Awards while out of town, earlier that day he saw SpongeBob the Musical which is previewing in Chicago. His review: “Square Awesome!”

While he was on this fun and short roadtrip with Quinn and our friend (and Broadway Club member) Julie, I was left to my own devices here in Omaha. Monday night, I had to get propped up with a little bit of support myself. The Omaha Blogging Community — YES, That’s a thing — is thriving and super-supportive.

So, I — like you — am a person with many hats and many needs and many dreams and many fears and many quirks and I — probably like you — have much to learn and need encouragement and support along the way. I look to my friends, I look to my husband, I look to Marcus, I look to my family, I look to social networking, I look to other moms, I look to other writers, I look and look and look and…I am blessed to find it. I felt very lucky to be surrounded by women who share their knowledge freely. I felt lucky to have Julie join Quinn and Marcus to complete their trip. (Marcus was glad to have someone go to the bar with him, too, since Quinn’s not really into that.) I have new things brewing in my world and I am assembling supports to create success. I can’t do any of this alone.

Marcus is no different in this regard, he needs support too. His needs sometimes look different than mine, but we all need support. So, back to Marcus’ goal to win a Tony.

Can a Person with Down Syndrome win a Tony Award?

Why The Hell Not?

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Tags: broadway, broadway list, Support, Tony Awards, Why The Hell Not

Originally published at www.mardrasikora.com on June 15, 2016.

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I am a rough draft. Let's hope within the next few years I'll be a best seller.

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