On this very day, at this very time, exactly four years ago, I self-starred in the auto-bio play “Ryan’s World.”
If you fancy reading the other parts, you can see the links underneath.^^/
Choosing the right songs and implementing them into the show was tricky. However, Mr P and Mum suggested certain songs for me to use.
For the intro, and the audience coming in and settle their bums to the floor, I opted to use Christina Aguilera’s song “Beautiful.” We all thought that this would be an ideal way to start the performance as that song is about individuality and self-confidence. For good measure I added a picture of me when I was 5 holding a Thomas the Tank Engine train. Whilst I was incredibly embarrassed I wanted to give everyone an idea what I looked like when I was young. That and I think it adds to the realism of the performance.
I was behind the stage of the intro and the first video scene. Nerves started to grow up inside me, but I felt myself getting into the moment of my youth. The first video scene is the doctor diagnosing my condition and explained to my Mum (the character) what to expect of me in the future. It would be highly unlikely that I would ever come out of my own bubble. Listening to this really helped me to get into the moment as it set as a reminder of what I was like when I was young.
- SCENES YOUNGER THAN TEN
I walked into the open space and parked myself on the outer edge of the gazebo. I used the gazebo for the purpose of holding up the screen which showed the videos. I was very conscious that I was going to knock the whole thing down so I took great care not to bump into it. Haha.
These few scenes were all about me when I was a toddler. The video showed scenes whilst I held up phrases on the cards to show what I was thinking at that time. I couldn’t explain myself at that time but I was aware what was happening. I held up a cue card that said “I know you’re talking about me, I’m not stupid.” I also held up a few sad faces to show the audience that I was feeling sad in certain moments.
On stage I kept my face and body language neutral to reinforce how I would have been feeling at the time. However, I did feel trickles of tears running down my face. “That’s not supposed to happen,” I thought. That was the first time ever that I genuinely cried during a performance. I cringed every time I heard myself scream or cry out. It felt like a stab in the heart. I wanted to hide my face behind the big cards as I didn’t really want the audience to see tears running down my face. Haha. I spontaneously took a few deep breaths to regain my composure.
I did receive a few laughs when I got kissed with a lipstick in the video and when I showed my sad face for the first time. I think everyone laughed at first probably because they thought the face was drawn in a funny way. I put up a smiling face when the lady at the school residential read me a Thomas story.
I think the audience were very touched by this. I even added the song “Thomas, You’re the Leader.” I felt this was very appropriate as I was trying to tell the audience that Thomas was my saviour in many unhappy moments.
Eventually, I went off stage, gearing myself up to reappear in a certain scene.
- SCENES OLDER THAN TEN
On the video it showed the actual footage of me being the mascot for Charlton Athletic when they played Bolton in 2000.
I came onto the stage feeling excited as I gained confidence and started to understand the surroundings outside my bubble.
I spoke only basic words at that time. In hindsight I wonder if I should have spoken in a monotone voice because I used to be expressionless with my words. However, in the live performance I was representing my thoughts. So I figured it would be appropriate to speak with emotion.
The most important scene involves the Football School. I was pretty nervous about this. It was important to get this right. We filmed the parts where all the lads were making fun of me and showed a huge lack of understanding. The coach was no different. I was too meek and polite to not stick up for myself as I didn’t want to “upset” anyone. It went to the point where I started to get changed in front of the other lads, something which I was very uncomfortable with.
On the video I actually did get changed but my back was to the audience so only my back was visible. Haha. That was another big moment as I don’t like getting changed in front of other people. I think if the scene wasn’t so serious the audience would have had a good chuckle at this.
The video was pretty emotional as I kept on making mistakes and kept on being the victim of “being different.” I tried to be strong and be tough but I kept on making mistakes, especially when I missed the penalty and ran the full length of the pitch to score an own goal… My spirit eventually wavered and I broke down in the middle of the pitch, all alone… On cue- Girls Aloud’s cover of “I’ll Stand by You,” plays as the video zooms out and fades.
This was definitely challenging to perform on film. I was caught up in the emotion of that part of my life. The Football scene and hanging out with “normal people” was the main reason why I started to become insecure about being Autistic. Was it ok to be different? I made my feelings known at that very moment how I felt about the world.
“I hate normal people. I hate special needs… and I hate myself.”
And it was at that very moment that I started to become insecure about myself. I had a long string that kept me from the audience. When my confidence grew, I’d pull the string back, allowing the audience nearer. If my confidence was knocked, I would push the string back and push the audience away. The strings were held up by three stools. When I said “I hate special needs…” I started to push the stools back.
However, I managed to compose myself enough not to charge into Mr Ian who was right behind the stool that I was pushing. This was quite reassuring as I’ve never felt this emotional during a performance. It showed me that even though I was in the zone I was still aware of my surroundings. That was quite a proud moment. =)
From that moment on I tried to fight for individuality and to be accepted for whom I was and I tried this tactic in different situations. I bought a Thomas DVD at school but my teacher disapproved as she thought that it was “too childish” and so she took it back. Why wasn’t I allowed to express the things I like? Why couldn’t I get the things I like? What was wrong with being myself?
- REACHING COLLEGE
I had the option of attending two different colleges. One was my local college and the other was the college that I eventually went to. I was very determined not to go to this certain college as I knew that I would have to start in the Supported Learning Department. I really, really didn’t want that to happen.
I expressed my anger and stubbornness thoughts to the audience. Was it fate that I would never progress? On the video it showed the letter that I would be in the SLD department. It also said in the letter how it would have been “too much for me” to be in the actual Performing Arts course with the “normal” mainstream students.
It turns out that college has treated me very kindly and the SLD department was actually a good stepping stone for me to study and perform with the “normal” mainstream students. I went from expressing my anger on stage feeling to expressing my pride and happiness.
- I AM RYAN
On film, I spoke about the overview of my time on the course. I learned that my biggest achievement from this University Course wasn’t the high marks on paper. It was learning how to be myself. In those last couple of months I completely let myself go and allowed everyone to get to know the real me and who I really was.
I’m not Autistic, I’m Ryan who just so happens to have Autism.
Being Ryan was my identity. After this revelation I stopped acting at this point and I was genuinely myself. It was definitely natural as I completely forgot my line at that moment. Haha!
I changed clothes into a more casual outfit, cut the tap and invited the audience into “my space”. This was to signify that I now felt more comfortable with how I was. I personally am not comfortable with physical contact but it’s my way of letting everyone know that I’m opening myself up to them.
At this moment I walked out of the room and the video of me, wearing the same casual outfit, came up. This was the scene where I said my “THANKYOUS” to all my friends, colleagues and tutors for treating me kindly for all these years. I would be too embarrassed to say it to their faces so I coped out and made them watch the video instead. Haha. Ironically, this was actually the very first thing that I and Mr P did, shooting this video of “THANKYOUS.”
In this video I played the soundtrack “The Island Song” and “I Believe I Can Fly.” These songs are very poignant to me as I used to severely dislike music. However, these were the very first songs that I liked and they were the platform for me to open myself up to all kinds of music. Now, whilst I still don’t like noise, I can handle music better and I’m very open-minded about it. Once again, Thomas the Tank Engine helped as The Island Song was actually a soundtrack from Thomas the Tank Engine. Haha.
- POST SHOW
I came out and took a bow. I was a little bit overwhelmed by the loud clapping and I literally couldn’t look at any of them in the face. After the bow I ran as fast as I could so that I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I was a little caught up in the moment. Well, that’s a fib. I was VERY caught up in the moment. Haha.
I actually get very embarrassed when I’m the centre of attention or if everyone is looking at me, which is among the reasons why I ran off. If I had spoken to people straightaway I probably would have been too caught up and cried and I really didn’t want that to happen.
After calming down I spoke with my friends one by one and had a good chin-wag with all of them. It was a strange moment as I was talking with them as if I had never performed the piece. It felt natural, very natural. I really did like that feeling and it was at that moment that I realised that all my Uni friends were actually my friends.
By revealing my autism to everyone has turned out to be one of the best moments in my life. I can now say that I have autism without feeling ashamed or insecure.
THANKS FOR READING
Since this day, four years ago, life has been great and for the first time I felt free of doubt. I have never looked back… and I never will.
Thanks for reading. =)