Support this world premiere production about the first 17 years of life for a boy on the autism spectrum. Using bunraku puppets implanted with wireless live-feed cameras. In tandem with 'I Direct Myself' by 7 Stages intern Sam Gross

About the Project

When the Sandy Hook shootings occurred in 2012, the second most deadly school massacre in United States history, I was personally struck by the overwhelmingly negative reaction to reports that the shooter was aspergers/autistic. Citizens uneducated in the scientific realities of living on the spectrum began to judge the shooter by misconceived notions that autism is a mental illness and that individuals on the spectrum are capable of dangerous sociopathic behavior. As I observed the cascade of misinformation, a call to action sounded within me: to dispel these myths through an interdisciplinary theatrical production, showing both the specific differences in function and perception for those on the spectrum, as well as universal challenges and overwhelming emotions we all face as humans. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASM) affects over 3 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. Georgia has one of the highest percentages of children born on the spectrum in the nation. With so many autistic individuals entering local and global communities it is imperative that the neurotypical public become informed and aware of the spectrum’s intricacies and effects. As the son of a bipolar parent, and a bipolar individual myself, I have always possessed a personal drive to share a-typical neurological experiences through the medium of puppetry. Just as theatre and cinema offer autistic individuals a unique tool to break through the barriers of communication, ‘Inside I’ has the potential to break stereotypes, recognize and enfold autistic citizenry further into the greater beloved community of all humanity.

 

‘Inside I’ explores the life and dreams of a boy (Ben) on the autistic spectrum as he journeys from birth through high school. As he learns to capture his unique perception within the controlled frame of a camera phone, Ben is able to show his peers sequences that convey his emotions and the emotions of those around him, thus bridging the common divide of social/emotional communication which the spectrum engenders. Characters are played by bunraku-style puppets implanted with live-feed wireless cameras. The live footage is edited/altered and projected on stage in real-time, giving voice and image to the spectrum’s unheard/unseen effects on function, psychology, and perception. Multiple, roving video monitors and screens make up the bulk of our set pieces: as billboards, rolling landscapes seen from the 'windows' of cars, movie theatre screens, grocery store shelves, elevator doors and abstract fantasy worlds. Situated in the realm of both multi-disciplinary theater and social innovation, ‘Inside I’ merges science and the arts, investigating everyone’s placement on a ‘spectrum’ of social and emotional expressiveness, and offering tools with which to better comprehend those different from ourselves, exemplified in our script by the power of film to transcend communication barriers. Scenes include the fraying nature of his parents’ relationship (there are troubling statistics of autistic children living in broken homes), his initial, organic interest in screens and video, visits to the doctor/autism research lab (showing the changing nature of autism science and therapy over the last twenty years), having a tantrum/sensory overload at school, trips to a movie theater, a color-coded fantasy visit to the always predictable environment of a grocery store, meeting a young misfit girl who both bullies and understands him in a unique way, and his discovery of communicating (and sense of control) through the use of recorded video. Daily actions such as putting on his clothes or walking down the street become aesthetically rich evocations of the sensory and psychological triggers which individuals on the spectrum regularly experience. These triggers and the extraordinary responses and coping mechanisms Ben has developed lead the audience through a sensorally arresting, immersive experience where video becomes a tool to communicate, as well as a vulnerable expression greatly effected by his peers and environment. In the end we find Ben has created a life structure that accommodates his condition and plays to his strengths and abilities. Through watching Ben create this structure, our audience will gain knowledge and tools to support empathy and understanding.

Beginning in 2013, I have engaged with experts in the field of autism research, neuroscience, education and therapy, including meeting with scientists at Mt. Sinai and Columbia Presbyterian Hospitals in New York City, researchers and therapists at Emory University’s Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta and The Weizmann Institute of Science in Tel Aviv, educators at The Rebecca School in New York City, and teens/adults on the spectrum and their parents and siblings in both New York and Atlanta. These scientific, therapeutic and family-based communities have shared priceless information ranging from cutting edge brain imaging tools, the coping techniques of family members, accounts of cyber bullying, and attempts to codify the language of autistic spasms. As well, my team has taken part in creative residencies at the New Victory Theatre and Abrons Arts Center in NYC, 7 Stages Theatre, KSU and Emory University in Atlanta. The creative and scientific knowledge we have gathered is coalescing into a production that generates wide-ranging discussion on the effects of autism, provokes inclusive dialogue with audience members, and promotes empathetic ideals of shared community and the beautiful complexity of the human mind. ‘Inside I’ has been commissioned by 7 Stages Theatre for premiere in April of 2016.      

In parallel with 'Inside I', a fifteen minute performance called 'I Direct Myself' is being created in collaboration between Artistic Director Heidi S Howard and longtime intern Sam Gross, who is on the autism spectrum. This production will be performed in tandem with 'Inside I', and features Sam and a small group of performers and musicians recounting Sam's experiences at school, home, with family and friends, and in his imagination.                                                                   


Matching Sponsors

Our generous sponsors will contribute $1 for every $1 donated to this project up to $2,629.50 ! (pending matching fund availability)

  • Cz07zu ydpsh2xqurpvavabxvx9yezj3bgh36v7t jo
Donate Now
$7,621.33 of $5,259 goal ⋅ ended 513 days ago
  • Donate $50 or more

    When you purchase a ticket to 'Inside I', enjoy the best seat in the house, reserved just for you!
    (50 of 50 remaining)
    Amount is fully tax-deductible
  • Donate $150 or more

    Explore the blend of old and new technology that went into the creation of 'Inside I'. Longtime puppeteer and director Michael Haverty will teach the basics of bunraku puppetry manipulation, as well as share the live-feed video techniques used in the show. Donors will get a chance to explore the actual puppets used in the show!
    (9 of 10 remaining)
    Amount is fully tax-deductible
  • Donate $500 or more

    7 Stages intern Sam Gross is a prolific artist and his drawings will be animated in 'I Direct Myself'. Sam will create an original drawing for you to keep as a thank you gift.
    (5 of 6 remaining)
    Amount is fully tax-deductible
-$2,362.33 to go. Every dollar helps.
$7,621.33 of $5,259 goal ⋅ ended 513 days ago
  • $1,334.38
    Alexander Gross
    over 1 year ago
  • $160.12
    in honor of Michele Tedesco
    over 1 year ago
  • $1,200
    Anonymous
    over 1 year ago
  • $332.17
    Match from City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
    over 1 year ago
  • $21.35
    Jolynn Sockwell
    over 1 year ago
  • $21.35
    Match from City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
    over 1 year ago
  • $160.12
    Anosn Asbury
    over 1 year ago
  • $160.12
    Match from City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
    over 1 year ago
  • $106.75
    Stephen Adams
    over 1 year ago
  • $106.75
    Match from City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
    over 1 year ago
  • $53.38
    Leandra & Gary Hall
    over 1 year ago
  • $53.38
    Match from City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
    over 1 year ago
  • $500
    Anonymous
    over 1 year ago
  • $500
    Match from City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
    over 1 year ago
  • $21.35
    ronald Howard
    over 1 year ago
  • $21.35
    Match from City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
    over 1 year ago
  • $1,334.38
    Alexander Gross
    over 1 year ago
  • $1,334.38
    Match from City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
    over 1 year ago
  • $100
    Deidre Wenokur
    over 1 year ago
  • $100
    Match from City of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs
    over 1 year ago
  • This campaign does not yet have any updates.