Bringing awareness to Autism through acting at the local level
The United Nations General Assembly declared April as World Autism Awareness Month to “highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society.”
This special awareness month just happens to coincide with Tryon Little Theater’s production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, a play written by Simon Stephens, and based on the book by Mark Haddon.
According to the United Nations statement, autism is a lifelong neurological condition that manifests during early childhood, irrespective of gender, race or socio-economic status. The term Autism Spectrum refers to a range of characteristics, mainly characterized by its unique social interactions, non-standard ways of learning, keen interests in specific subjects, inclination to routines, challenges in typical communications and particular ways of processing sensory information.
The main character in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” is 15 year-old Christopher, who is definitely on the autism spectrum. Dealing with emotions and social interactions can be very challenging for him – as well as for those around him. Sensory stimulation can be overwhelming and frightening, and any change in routine is very upsetting.
Christopher makes a grizzly and upsetting discovery at the beginning of the play, and his determination to find out what happened takes him on a journey that would be hard for anyone to experience, let alone a very sensitive and vulnerable boy.
Heading up a stellar cast for the show is Liam Daniels, who portrays Christopher. Daniels, who has just turned 17, is very comfortable sharing that he was diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of 6. Today, Aspergers is referred to as high-functioning autism. Over the years, he has often struggled with social situations, loud noises and transitions.
Liam has been on TLT’s stage before, most recently in the role of Grasshopper in “James and the Giant Peach”, and credits his experience with the theater in helping him in all aspects of his life.
“The TLT Summer Youth Program and the TLT community – adults and kids — have helped me to learn, grow and connect,” says Daniels. “Playing the role of Christopher has given me a new connection to a character and I am honored that Chris Tinkler gave me the chance to prove myself in this play.”
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” opens April 25 and runs for two weekends. Visit www.tltinfo.org or call 828-859-2466.
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