The Acting World: Autobiography Play (Part Two)

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  1. DECISION

Right! I’m now going to do this Autobio play starring as myself, but… what on earth do I do? How do I execute this piece? How do I act it? How do I direct it? What parts of my life are most significant and what might people be interested in? Do I do live or film or a mixture of both?

I discussed the key parts of my life with my co-director Mr P as well as my family. After much discussion we decided that my life before Uni was the way to go. Obviously, people at Uni only knew me as I was then. They had no idea about my life prior to the Uni course.

At that point I had a rough idea how I was going to perform this piece. I decided to make this mostly live theatre but to include multimedia and film. I felt that I could express my thoughts live but portray certain aspects on film. To me that was the most practical and sensible solution. Realistically speaking, I don’t think there was any way I could have done it. Mr Ian came up with great artistic ideas but I needed to do what I was comfortable with. Well… everything I was doing at that point was far from comfortable! Haha.

I decided what scenes I was going to film, what characters to use and who I would ask to play those parts.

With the cast chosen I then had to think about which scenes I would film and which I would perform live.

  1. OVER-ACTING

In the first two weeks I did find it difficult to play my character. I learned that I kept holding back when I was rehearsing so I decided to stop rehearsing altogether, choosing to act and improvise when I was being filmed.

I did this one scene where I was playing with my biro trains and Thomas trains where I would scream and get upset if my brother tried to join in the fun. I think I was ok but I wasn’t natural… I was extremely uncomfortable and I think because of this I started to over-act. It’s not easy when you’re 22 and you’re trying to act as you did when you were 4.

Acting as my younger self playing with my trains was probably the most difficult part of the whole performance. The scene wasn’t really done right. I couldn’t rehearse it as it was a challenge to keep it up. If I was going to do this then I had to do it in one take. My family members watched my scene back and they felt that I wasn’t being natural either. They watched me grow up so they could remember how I acted and behaved.

With much reluctance but being sensible, I decided that I should do this scene again, but in a more natural setting…I chose to do this, for the second time, at my sister’s house.

  1. EPIPHANY

There was a period where my confidence was low. I did start to doubt myself and my capabilities of being able to pull this off. Could I do it? I needed an inspiration from somewhere…

My university is actually based in a college. The correct term of studying that I did was Foundation Degree. Basically, you do two years of university work at a college but you do the final third year at an actual university. The third year is only optional though. I decided to take a look at my local university, with the thought of carrying on the third year, to obtain my full degree. It sounded ideal to me at that time. So, I went along to the open day and spoke to one of the course tutors with my Mum. We explained to her about my individual needs and what my strengths and needs were.

Her reaction to everything that we said was quite peculiar. She pulled a lot of funny faces and she especially made a quirky face when I said that I don’t understand generalisation. From that moment she started to discourage me from the course as she didn’t think I could handle it. There were going to be many social gatherings and she didn’t think that I could adapt enough to meet the course requirements. I was rather speechless at that moment…

I was a bit shocked on how quickly she discouraged me, and even went so far to suggest a writing course as no social interaction was required. Haha… I decided from that moment that I was not going to go on that course as the tutor didn’t seem open-minded and she did not understand people like me. Even if I did join the course I think I would have dropped out because of her. I was unimpressed with her attitude, and to be honest, I was unimpressed with the SLD facilities that that particular university had to offer.

After I spoke about my thoughts to my family and I had the chance for all this to sink in…a fire started to ignite in my stomach. I started to get annoyed that someone would pre-judge me and my capabilities without even getting the time to know me first. There have been people in my life who have doubted my capabilities, and I was always determined to prove those people wrong.

The only people who doubted me were the people who did not know me. They just judged my capabilities through papers, reports and assessments and probably what they’ve researched about autism on the internet. I wasn’t going to let anyone doubt me ever again. I was going to prove to everyone that I shouldn’t limit my capabilities just because of pre-judgement. I especially was going to prove to everyone and to myself that I shouldn’t limit my capabilities just because I’m Autistic.

I was angry. I was determined. I was motivated.

This was the answer. This was the epiphany that I was looking for. The confidence that I had lost came back and it was stronger than ever before.

And now, back to the Performance.

  1. NEW FOUND CONFIDENCE

I asked the National Certificate group to paint me a wall of a mountain that represents my personal journey. Me and Mr P went to their class and explained what we were looking for. At that moment Mrs V turned to me and said, “Are you going to tell everyone about you?” and I was like “oh my…”

I was so focus on proving a point to my doubters and to myself that I completely forgot that I was going to share with everyone about my Autism. Was this going to be a first time? Initially, I was very hesitant. I’ve never openly told this side of me to anyone, only a close group of people. I knew the National Certificates by their faces but I didn’t know any of them personally. How would they react? I took a deep breath and said, “I am autistic.”

I got a positive response. I was asked a lot of questions regarding Autism and how I cope with autism. It really warmed my heart and boosted my confidence. I even got a round of applauds.

It boosted my morale even more and for the first time in my life I wasn’t afraid to say that I have autism. I became much more open about myself and I generally became chattier with people who I didn’t know very well, which used to be an enormous challenge for me.

  1. FILMING THE SCENES

What was initially daunting turned out to be a lot of fun.

The football guys were wonderful to work with. I explained to them what my condition was and how I cope with it. Coincidentally, they were doing a course about bullying so I was actually called into that class to talk about being different. I never thought I would speak about my autism in front a bunch of strangers! And like the National Certificates, I got a positive response.

The football students acted out their parts very well but I must say that Chris, the tutor, was particularly outstanding. His sister has learning difficulties so I think he was able to relate to my problems to some degree.

I decided to include some of my family/family friends in certain film scenes. They were fun to work with.

The scene I did with Nat and Mr Andy was not very loud on film so I went to Mr M, who is a record producer that I know and a good friend. He had a studio so offered to help with the sound on the film. He was kind enough to help me out so I went over to his house and did the over dubbing. What should have taken a few hours took all night. We worked on it from 4 O’clock in the afternoon until 5 O’clock in the morning! It took me 58 goes to get the speech pattern right! Haha! We experienced all kinds of emotions that night but it was definitely an amazing night and one of the best that I’ve experienced. =)

  1. SHOW TIME

There was a lot that I wanted to talk about as this had been a really good experience. I had a lot of fun with many people during the filming. I decided to only talk about significant parts of the rehearsals and filming and how I over-came problems.

Next time, I will share my thoughts with you about going into the performance, during the performance, and after the performance.

Show time!

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The Acting World: Being Natural

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It’s show blog time!^^/

I always thought I wanted to be an actor, and I began to pursue the acting road when I was 14. I enjoyed performing at school and started to attend drama classes. Everyone in these drama classes I would refer to as ‘the normal people’. Back then I would refer to people, who didn’t have autism or additional needs like myself as ‘normal’. It was the time when I was very insecure about myself and lacked self-confidence. My confidence grew throughout the years and it skyrocketed in my last year at university.

My main weakness in the acting field, I think, was not being ‘natural’. Some people would often say to me, “it’s good, but try to be more natural,” and “you’re being too OTT.” Sometimes they told me through a joke and sometimes they told me this seriously. For the life of me I didn’t understand their constructive criticism when they told me to be more ‘natural’. What does being natural mean? Why am I being too over the top? In my eyes I was being natural. I knew the characters I had to play and tried to relate their feelings with my own. Yet, because I wasn’t being ‘natural’ I often have lost parts and roles.

I remember this specific task at university where I was asked to narrate. Again, I probably over acted whilst narrating. In my eyes, I needed to act since acting is part of performing. The role of narrating was eventually given to someone else and I was really disappointed by this. Why wasn’t I being natural? Because I thought I was. I just didn’t understand. Of course, it all hit me when I left university.

Basically I was never natural in certain roles due to my lack of experience in society. It’s mostly due to my lack of experience interacting with ‘the normal people’. I couldn’t relate to how ‘normal people’ think. I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, I never argued with anyone, I’ve never been in a fight, I’ve never been drunk, and the list goes on. It’s one thing to witness a dramatic scene on TV but since I never experienced that in real life, I couldn’t relate.

The only thing I could do really was comedy. I could relate to comedy as I enjoy it. I felt that I could make people laugh in a variety of ways. I like to think that I made people laugh without trying as I like to think that comedy is my forte in terms of acting. I enjoy making others laugh, whether it’s impersonating characters, re-acting scenes from comedy shows or performing my own sketches.

However, there was one serious part that I was natural at that wasn’t necessarily a comedy… it was when I starred in my very own auto-biography performance. I basically acted out myself when I was child and when I was growing up. I was just recalling my past experiences. I actually cried a couple of times during this performance and this was the first time that I genuinely cried. I intend to talk more about my auto-bio play at some point as there is a lot I would like to share. What I will say though is that this was probably my best ever performance that wasn’t necessarily a comedy one. It had a few comedy moments in it, albeit, not intentionally.

To date, the auto-biography performance was my last and it was most likely my best ever. =D

WILL I ACT AGAIN?

In all honesty, since my writing epiphany, I have no intention of pursuing acting as a career. That’s not to say I will never act again but I will never audition for a role.

If I were to act again it would have to be on my own terms. I would have to relate to the character strongly and I have to have 100% confidence that I will bring out the best in that character. Although, if you asked me to perform a Rowan Atkinson sketch then I would accept it in a heartbeat. Haha. The same applies to a superhero character… perhaps Iron Man. Wink, wink. 😉 I’m definitely not ruling out doing my auto-bio play again. I have better ideas on how to improve on it if I were to perform it again.

I understand from a ‘normal’ person’s point of view now and I’m pretty sure that if I re-visited all my past plays I would be able to do better in my roles. However, if you gave me a time machine and gave me that as an option, I wouldn’t do it. Learning is a wonderful thing. Sometimes it can take someone years to learn something, especially me. It might be ironic that I learnt what it means to be ‘natural’ when I’ve stopped pursuing acting, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. What’s meant to be is meant to be.

I do fancy the voice acting work though. I understand how to use my voice naturally… I just need to speak as myself. I don’t know how I want to pursue this but I’m currently practicing by reading books of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends and sharing them with people who enjoy listening to my style of narrating. =) I haven’t thought about it as a career or as a volunteering option but I’m enjoying it as a hobby. =D

THANKS FOR READING

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It’s been a slow and steady progress but I think that being in the acting field was the perfect direction to boost my confidence. Not only that but it gave me the opportunity to make friends with the right people. =D

And I just thought I mention that I no longer refer to ‘normal people’ as ‘normal people’ as I see them just like me, but with their own needs as an individual. I have used the term ‘normal people’ to explain things better. =)

Thanks for reading.

Namaste.^^/

Ryan.