J.R. Teeter, Rochester’s Bread & Water Theatre’s artistic director, is always looking to put on a play on an important and current topic. The most recent topic for Teeter, was autism. Autism is becoming widely accepted and awareness is increasing, but how often do you hear about it on television shows or in movies? The only exceptions are the movie Adam, which came out in 2009, and the television show, Parenthood. Teeter agrees, “everyone knows someone who has autism or is ‘on the spectrum’…and yet there are not many plays and very few TV shows that deal with autism in a realistic manner.”[i] On The Spectrum is a love story about two people, who are both diagnosed with autism, but were raised very differently and have different views on the developmental disorder.
The female lead, Iris, played by Amanda Foreman, sees her diagnosis as just being different, but never received any kind of therapy. The male lead, Cormac, played by Aubrey Eaton, is in law school and received early intervention and then different therapies while growing up.
Aubrey Eaton was not too familiar with autism when he was first casted for the role. He watched endless YouTube videos, learning the every move and behavior pattern of someone with autism. Eaton explains,
“At first glance, I didn’t notice anything abnormal. I had to look really carefully in some instances to see autism behaviors like tics and getting stuck on talking about a specific subject. Autism doesn’t always jump out.”
Both his character and his love interest have to try to understand that people with autism conceptualize the diagnosis differently. Sick of being judged and labeled, Iris and Cormac introduce the audience to a different view on autism.
The show is also performed on Sundays for audiences with sensory issues, which is a common issue among the autism community. The performance is not as loud and the lights are not as bright.
[i] “Democrat & Chronicle” Play delves into the autism spectrum. 10 Oct 2013. Web. < http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/lifestyle/2013/10/10/play-delves-into-the-autism-spectrum/2964049/>