by Mimi Sells
July 28, 2023
You might not think that a 90-minute show about an adult woman being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum would make for enthralling theatre. At least, I didn’t.
Boy, was I wrong! Using dance, video, sound, music and unique staging, Is it Thursday Yet? (IITY) sears and soars with originality and emotion. That’s the purest definition of great theatre.
Now playing at the La Jolla Playhouse through August 6, IITY is the joint creation of dancer/choreographer and performer Jenn Freeman and choreographer and director Sonya Tayeh.
Freeman is an accomplished artist who has worked prolifically with many dance companies over the years. Yet she always felt socially apart and different except when dancing and among other dancers.
A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in 2020 at the age of 33, suddenly made clear why Freeman’s life had been a deep struggle outside the dancer’s realm.
Through IITY, Freeman takes her audience on a voyage through her childhood and her symptoms. In fact, the symptoms of ASD are almost the script for this production.
Barely a word is spoken by the artist. All is revealed by evocative dance moves, athleticism, childhood videos, stagecraft and diagnostic notes recorded by her therapist. Through her performance, we viscerally feel what Freeman has gone through and are even invited to participate in her experience.
Freeman is accompanied on stage by Holland Andrews, a vocalist, composer and performer in her own right. Holland hauntingly sings and plays evocative sounds and music throughout Freeman’s journey of discovery.
In one of the most powerful scenes, Freeman carries the singing Holland around on her back as she tries to navigate her overstimulated world. Literally and figuratively, we grasp the heavy weight Freeman has carried alone for so many years.
While the ASD diagnosis was the impetus for and connecting thread of IITY, it is also the joy of embracing it. To have an ASD diagnosis isn’t a sentence or a prison. It’s a liberation. And we, the audience, experiences the gift of Freeman’s evolving sense of freedom in the arc of this production.
La Jolla Playhouse describes this work as “A dance of discovery. A brain in motion. A life on the spectrum.” I’d describe it as a non-stop, tour de force theatrical event that illuminates life as a neurodivergent artist. It’s an event that offers a deeply emotional and eye-opening experience for any audience.
Is it Thursday yet? Is playing through August 6. For tickets and more information, go to lajollaplayhouse.com
To learn more about Jenn Freeman, go to jennfreemandance.com