The Arts Build Bridges, Not Walls

On November 21, 2016 over 50 musical theater performers of all ages came together from around the United States, Brazil, Lebanon, New Zealand, and Russia to share their talents before an audience of Broadway producers and casting agents at Lincoln Center. All were bursting with energy and enthusiasm, but none more than Coby Bird.

Coby is a very tall 14-year-old from Los Angeles with a passion for musical theater. He also has autism. Thanks to our partners at The Miracle Project and Broadway Dreams Foundation, Coby has been given the opportunity to share his talents and find a new sense of confidence and possibilities.

I’ve had the privilege to get to know Coby and his family through their involvement with The Miracle Project at The Wallis. I’ve seen him grow artistically (and literally) through the classes and performances he has done here. With support from The Miracle Project he was able to participate in Broadway Dreams week here last June. He so impressed and inspired our colleagues at Broadway Dreams, that they invited him to join their national showcase performance in New York. I was thrilled to be there to support Coby and the other wonderful performers from LA.

I’ve learned from Coby and The Miracle Project that autism can sometimes build a virtual wall that separates people from each other. Snap judgements people often make about the way someone looks or acts can lead to bullying or being ignored. Hearing Coby sing a song he helped write called “Invisible” brought this home for me in a very powerful way. Now more than ever, we all must strive to confront and break down walls – whether real or virtual – to create more opportunity for acceptance and understanding.

The arts – when done well – can provide bridges that connect people and forge new bonds of empathy and mutual respect. Being with Coby and our Broadway Dreams colleagues in New York made this concept very real. The intense pursuit of a shared passion – musical theater- created new friendships within hours. Coby was valued and appreciated as a fellow performer and Dreamer, not cast aside or defined by his differences.

The next day after the showcase performance in New York, Coby flew back to LA with his mom. In spite of the exhausting few days and long flight back, Coby insisted on coming straight to The Wallis from the airport. After all, he had a new show to help prepare with his friends at The Miracle Project.