Indigo Lights on Broadway
Developing musical seeks to get inside the mind of autistic synesthete
Posted Nov 03, 2017
Scott Evan Davis, empath, educator, trained thespian, had a dream eight years ago. He was 32.
In the dream, his mentor from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan, with whom he'd had a falling out before his death, appeared. His teacher embraced him in a profound act of forgiveness. And he hummed a few bars of a beautiful melody.
Scott woke and wrote down the fragment of the song, then completed it with his own vast reservoir of until-then untapped talent. It became his very first composition, "Cautiously Optimistic," which would anchor a whole album of songs. He hasn't stopped writing since then. And he was the winner of the 2012 Broadway World Best Song Award for “If We Say Goodbye" sung by Liz Callaway. His work can be heard and his many other accomplishments seen here.
Scott, so gifted himself, tells me he always had a fascination with "indigo children," those special kids first noticed by the late synesthete and therapist Nancy Ann Tappe and named for the consistent blue-purple aura she saw around them.
"I knew if I ever wrote a play it would be called 'Indigo'," he told me by phone recently.
And he also had a special place in his heart for autistic young people, with whom he has worked so successfully for years now, assisting teachers at PS 94M, the Spectrum School on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, even producing award-winning plays with them.
Soon, what began to coalesce in Scott's mind was the profound story of a teenage autistic synesthete named Emma. "I drew back to that idea, indigo children, color of enlightenment and the kids having these indigo auras, autism, and heightened awareness."
Then destiny called. Scott met producers Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, who last produced George Takei in "Allegiance" on Broadway. They asked him to send them a few songs and determined he was the real thing.
A reading of the play, described as a "musical exploration of how one family attempts to break through autism’s challenging veil and in the process, learns how to listen to one another" was recently done and it is now in development.
In the story, lead actor Emma must heal her own dysfunctional family despite being locked inside her non-verbal space. She twirls, hits herself with spoons, and communicates through anagrams. The anagrams with different colored letters come to light through a Scrabble game set up for her grandmother, who has Alzheimer's. When the words "inspired" and "adept" come up in the game, they will reassemble thanks to stage magic and create the words, "trapped inside"!
And "A Calm Unwise..." the brilliant subtitle for the show, translates to "a new musical."
The cast will feature Tony nominee Sydney Lucas ("Fun Home") as Emma. She will sing her private thoughts to the audience and colored lights will further portray how she sees the world autistically and synesthetically.
Davis is also the winner of the 2017 MAC Award for Best Song and the 2016 ASCAP Gorney Award for his song “If the World Only Knew,” which he rewrote for the score of this show.
"We often are afraid of what we don’t know," Scott wrote me recently. "But what we don’t know can be something beautiful. I think the musical theater stage is a wonderful place for a character to challenge what we know and believe about communication. I hope Emma can give audiences a glimpse inside the mind of someone who is non verbal, and begin to understand how important it is for us to look past ourselves and into the hearts of someone who may be trapped inside their own body, waiting to be heard, so they can share all of the beauty that they see."
This production is going to mean a great deal to many people. We will be transported inside Emma's world. Through Scott's enormous empathy, we, too, will better understand what it is like in the mind of someone we can't usually reach. I'm terribly moved by this project.