The Acting World: Autobiography Play (Part One)

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It’s show blog time!^^/

  1. INTRODUCTION

This blog is all about a play I wrote and starred in. This play is about my life when I was small. I showed everyone what it’s like to live with Autism and explained how I saw the world from my point of view. However, before I talk about the performance itself I feel that it’s necessary to dig further into the past. By doing so, it will explain a lot of things and my past going into the performance. It won’t take long. I promise. =)

  1. BEING DIAGNOSED / NOT SPEAKING

I was diagnosed with Autism around the age of 2, when I was attending nursery education unit. It was usual for children to attend the nursery for one year. However, since I was part of the special needs area I stayed there for 2 years. The doctor who diagnosed me with Autism said that I my quality of life will probably never improve. I will never look anyone in the eye, I will never engage in a conversation and I will more or less be trapped in my own world. For a few years, he was right…

When I turned 5 I started to attend a SEN school. It was literally just up the road from my old nursery, so that was a bit of good fortune.

In my school days, especially when I was younger, I was extremely quiet. Because I was quiet and was unable to communicate, the teachers found it hard to understand me. Not necessarily because to be mean, more likely through lack of knowledge/experience. They would often talk about me and my “problems” in front of me, assuming that I didn’t know what they were talking about. However, I could usually read the situation by their facial expression and tone of their voice.

The majority of my school life was frustration. The frustration of not being able to talk. I think I was probably capable of speaking but I didn’t know how to. I think my subconscious held me back from speaking and interacting with others. I was able to string sentences together when I was 10 or 11. Before then I just spoke words every once in a while. I even started to open up my bubble a little bit. I somewhat started to understand how the wide world works.

Being able to speak was good and it did feel like a massive personal achievement. However, since I started to speak, it did cause some troubles every now and again. I could speak, but I didn’t realise the words that came out of my mouth. From a teacher’s point of view, whatever I said, I must mean. I have said a lot of rude things that I didn’t realise were rude or inappropriate. I never meant to be rude or upset anyone so it was a big deal if I did this. This is where the frustration came in. The teachers took what I said at face value. If I said it, I meant it. I could never explain my words or what I meant. So, I had to end up apologising even if it was all a misunderstanding. Situations like this knocked my confidence completely and discouraged me from talking.

That was all just one part of the problem.

  1. QUESTIONING MYSELF

I went to the Bobby Charlton’s School of Excellence that one time, and I must say that it wasn’t a happy experience. It was the first time that I interacted with people who were “mainstream” i.e., secondary school students. Out of everyone in the local area I was the only “special needs” student that attended the whole programme. It was a big problem for me. As I was the only “special needs” student attending, there was a lack of understanding, I feel, for people like me. It seemed that the coaches in general were more used to secondary students rather than special needs students and so they didn’t really bear this in mind. The secondary students were not very understanding towards me either. They often whispered about me under their breath and called me “weird”, even when they were right next to me.

By lunch time I really wanted to go home. However, my pride kind of kept me there. In my eyes I refused to be defeated even if I did feel everyone there was against me. I strived to be as good as they were. That special needs students like myself could cope on the same stage as them. My hopes were dashed when I scored an own goal…

We all laugh about it now, especially me. However, it was a very humiliating experience at that time. It was also from that minute on that I started to question myself as a human being. Why was I being treated that way? Was it because I made that mistake? Was it because I was weird? Was it because that I had “special needs”? I started to dislike being in an SEN school, I started to dislike the mainstream people and I started to dislike myself. Why was I born like this? Why couldn’t I’ve been “normal?” I saw everyone who went to mainstream school as “normal” and myself as not normal. Haha.

  1. COLLEGE SUMMARY

I left my school when I was 18.

I went to a college that specifically catered to people with “special needs”. It went under the title of Supported Learning Department. I severely disliked being part of that department. I was determined not to go to that college because I didn’t want to go to that department. Haha. However, my local college didn’t offer the support that I needed. I was then offered a place at a different college which had an SLD department. I attended the SLD department for one year. I was lacking a lot of confidence and spent the rest of my experience being reserved.

However, I attended a Mainstream programme on a part-time basis, within the same college. It was the Performing Arts class. I felt happy yet very anxious. Was history going to repeat itself? Is this a chance for me to “redeem” myself? My thoughts were very conflicting and it was a constant battle with my own thoughts. In the end, I decided to be quiet and neutral when I attended these classes. If I didn’t say anything, then I wouldn’t get on the wrong side of anyone. I promised myself to not tell anyone about my Autism. I maintained that persona for most of my college life, even later when I started to attend that Mainstream programme full time.

  1. OPENING UP

Things got easier when I started University, which was based at that same college. Usually, I would have to attend the follow up course to prepare for University. However, all the tutors deemed that I was ready to start a full University programme, and I accepted a place on the foundation degree course. =)

On the first day, with a fresh new faces joining the course, I decided to tell everyone that I had Autism. With discussions with my tutor we decided that it would be best to tell them, and strangely, I felt ok with it. It’s probably the first time that I didn’t hesitate telling anyone about my Autism. I opened up to everyone and to my surprise no one isolated themselves from me. That was odd, I thought. Was I perhaps worrying for no reason? Or, is it because some of the Uni students were adults and they were more open-minded? Whilst I opened up to my fellow classmates and gradually started to be myself, I still kept my guard up.

  1. FINAL PERFORMANCE PIECE

It was March and we, the Uni second year students, were discussing what we could do, as individuals, for our “Final Performance” module. I was struggling for ideas myself.

All I could think to do was to do these bunch of comedy sketches that I had written myself. However, I wanted a decent mark and doing these little sketches wouldn’t constitute a high mark. Do I turn these sketches into a lengthy play? It was a concern. Comedy is my forte, I think, since it’s a style of play that I am most relaxed in. Although I was aware that this was my forte and it’s for my final performance piece, I anticipated that it was going to be a disaster. I would probably have been over the top when acting out the sketches and too energetic.

I spoke with my tutor about my concerns. I then spoke with him privately about an idea that I came up with on the spur of the moment. I did have some difficult times at Uni but I did remain mentally strong in most of situations. I appreciated my classmates and everyone I spoke to for making my Uni life easier and happier.

I’m not one for being sentimental so I wanted to thank everyone but cop out at the same time. So, I thought, what if I did a video to say “thankyou” to my classmates and to everyone else who had supported me. I was prepared to open up about all my worries and doubts and how everyone’s support had made my Uni experience much easier.

It was at that moment, Mr Ian said:

“I think it would be amazing if you did an Auto-Biographical Performance of your life with Autism.”

 

…there was a bit of silence. It took me a long time for this suggestion to sink in. An Auto-bio performance? Like an auto-bio book but in play form?

“Like, talk about my life?”

 

I asked, but deep down I knew full well what he meant.

“Absolutely. It has been done before.”

 

It really was a surreal moment. A bunch of things entered my head. It wasn’t that long ago that I revealed to my classmates about my Autism. I was still iffy about revealing more of my Autistic quirks. Could I manage to talk about my past and experiences? Thinking about my past is difficult, let alone talking about it. How would I fair?

Part of me was screaming “go for it!” but there was still doubt in my mind. I decided to ask for family and classmates opinions; somewhat hoping that some of them would oppose the idea. I asked… all of them thought it was a great idea. The votes were unanimous. Haha.

I had to think about this for a week. I did get stress thinking about it. Was this a good idea? In one way, this may be a good chance to get a lot of things off my chest. Then again, was this going to break me? Doing a performance about my life was certainly a lot easier than forcing comedy sketches to be funny.

  1. DECISION

A week went by and I made my decision…. Am I going to do a performance based on my life with Autism?

…yes.

The Acting World: Hat-Trick

Football

It’s show blog time!^^/

One of my all-time favourite performances comes in the form of “Hat-Trick”. It’s about an arrogant footballer who looks down his nose at other players and is a big womanizer. He doesn’t realise that other people make fun of him and he fails to realise his own faults, due to his high ego.

INTRODUCTION

The character Mr Hat-Trick actually came from a past college project. With many other characters he was in purgatory and wanted to ascend to heaven. He was a Football player in his past life but died in a Blimp Explosion. I bet you can all guess where I got that idea from. 😉

Ahem-

He actually started off as a romantic family man who cherishes his wife and adores his three children. Then, the tutor gave me an emotion of “sarcasm” and from that point on I developed him into someone who is very lofty and very arrogant. A little bit like Alan Partridge if you will who doesn’t realise that he is the butt of many jokes.

If I remember correctly he ends up being on the “bad” side rather than the “good” side. Haha.

UNI PROJECT IDEA

On this certain performance criteria we had to perform a community project of some sort. Around this time there were controversy involving John Terry and Wayne Bridge and the England squad was announced for the World Cup 2010. An idea immediately came to me. What if I play some football player who attends a press conference and gets asked a bunch of questions?  Random spectators from the audience can ask random questions and I could react in my character. Another idea came to me, what if I recycle a character from a past performance, I.e., Mr Hat-Trick? I love this idea so I decided to go with it.

Technically, this would probably count as a prequel to the college show as he died and resides in purgatory. Haha.

UNI-PROJECT BUILD-UP

I had quite a lot of fun on this project but at the same time I probably took it a little seriously.

As this was going to be a comedy I felt that the spectators could only appreciate it if they saw it once. I decided that it would be best if we had closed rehearsals, thinking that the comedy factor might wear thin if they had to watch it over and over in rehearsals.

I wouldn’t let anyone watch the rehearsals. In insight I believe this was unnecessary on my part. I never thought myself as unapproachable but I do think I might have taken some of the fun out of it. If I were to describe how I felt about it, I would say that I probably made it too precious.

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I worked on this project with a good friend a mine, let’s call him Mr Rodders. Mr Rodders worked on the technical side. He took several photo shoots of me posing wearing a Chelsea polo shirt and in a smart suit. He also filmed me running around in the park and playing football. I had to imagine that I was playing against the opposition. That was fun. I even got on the bus with him in an impromptu visit to the park. That was good experience for me as I don’t handle impromptu decisions well.

I had a few photoshoots with my fiancée, Mrs Hat-Trick, Jaclyn Delacroix. That was good experience for me too as it’s rare that I have to act lovey-dovey and embrace a lot. Hugs are not my thing so I was asking a lot of myself here.

One of the funniest moments during the build-up would was what I refer to as “the pink shirt moment”. The Character, Pippa, wore a pink shirt with a picture of my face on it and a huge “I” and a heart above my face. I.e., I love Hat-Trick. With assistance from Mum I managed to iron the image on. It turned out that the top was absolutely massive on the actor, and it actually went below her knees! You guessed it, I bought a size far too big. You see, in my head it was “A PINK SHIRT! I MUST GET THAT BEFORE IT SELLS OUT!” Nothing else really went through my mind except the colour “pink”. Haha.

*

I felt that overall, despite being out of my comfort zone a little, I was a good leader and director. Usually I’m not very good at giving orders and when I’m in that position I’m hesitant and unsure. However, if I’m comfortable with the project, I know what I’m doing and I’m good at communicating.

I like to think I managed to accommodate the actors to their needs and I was able to process 5 questions at once… this often happened back when I was at school so it was a useful habit to have. =) The most important thing is that I never panicked and I never once took out my slight nerves on the actors and Mr Rodders. I’ve never been one to take out my frustration on others or humiliate them and I certainly wasn’t going to start then.

Leadership skills are not my strongest asset but I did myself proud. =)

UNI-PROJECT PLAY

The show started with me walking towards the main tech building with a young lady on my arm. The audience were in the foyer and my agent, Chip, played by Mr Rodders, phoned me and asked me where I was. On cue, when I was close enough, he walked outside and made a fuss out of my appearance. Then, he went back in and gathered the audience back in the facility where the “press conference” would take place.

My actual family was in attendance as was a good friend of mine. When I’m playing serious parts I don’t want my family to see me, but when I’m playing light-hearted parts, I like my family in attendance.

Usually, I take my roles seriously and it takes me little time to learn my lines. However, I feel that I’m only natural when I play the parts that I’m comfortable with, I.e., Hat-Trick. When I play parts seriously, I make little mistakes. When I play parts with good fun and they bring the best out of me, I’m prone to many mistakes. And that’s what happened in the actual play… I made plenty of mistakes but for the first time, I didn’t panic. I didn’t get annoyed either. I think it’s because I was calling all the shots and felt that I could get away with a “mistake or two”. ^^/

I loved the performance. I really let go and acted out Mr Hat-Trick. I was a bit of a womanizer and had plenty of banter with some of the actors in the audience. I even cursed a couple of times which I won’t repeat on here. 😉

One of my favourite pieces of dialogue is:

Hat-Trick: Besides, he’s s***

Mr H: Your s***

Hat-Trick: He’s the s****** of the s***

Mr: No, you are S***! You look like s***! You smell like s***! You are S***!

Hat-Trick: No, no, no, mate… I am THE S***. He’s just… S***!

The performance was concluded when Chip embraced me, groped my bum and pushed me out of the “conference” room…. The audience literally laughed their rockers off when that happened. I must admit, I thought it was funny too. I didn’t really know how I didn’t laugh myself.

UNI-PROJECT CONCLUSION

I was very natural. I was familiar with the football world and the sort of thing footballers may get up to. It was a comedy as well, so I could really let go and allow Hat-Trick to take over me for a little while.

My marks didn’t go as high as I could have got since I completely forgot what the original criteria assignment was about. That was to get the “audience” involved and since the actors I “hired” were “planted” it became a regular play rather than an interactive theatre. I didn’t mind this though because I was really proud of what I’ve accomplished and it’s all thanks to the help of Mr Rodders and everyone else who got involved to make it a good play. =)

THANKS FOR READING

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I should mention as well that I did create a Facebook Fanpage for Hat-Trick in order to advertise the show. Looking at this page made me remember how much I enjoyed performing this piece. I’m even laughing right now as I recall some of the funny moments. =)

However, it seems that since then, a few people genuinely believed that I was an actual Chelsea player. In the near future, I’m going to cancel this account to prevent any more confusion. For now though I’m going to share this link so you all can check it out, if you like. =)

Here it is:

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kevin-Robinson/116259388403366?ref=ts&fref=ts

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much I enjoyed writing it. =)

Thanks for reading. =)

Namaste.^^/

Ryan.

The Acting World: Being Natural

acting

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.