Autism Play Raises $10K to Show Life on the Spectrum

By Mathew Katz on July 3, 2014 8:47am 

Square Peg Round Hole
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Tectonic Theater Project

MIDTOWN — A play that aims to shed light on the experience of living with autism has raised $10,000 online — and plans to raise even more.

"Square Peg Round Hole" is the working title of the Tectonic Theater Project's new show, which will use images, sounds, light and other stage elements to help audiences understand those with autism.

An Indiegogo fundraising campaign ending on Thursday night had raised $10,406 of a $10,000 goal as of Wednesday evening. With funding from autism organizations and the company's board members, the group hopes to raise $75,000 in all to let director and co-writer Andy Paris and co-writer Anushka Paris-Carter do a workshop with the show for three weeks at a theater in July.

Since many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty with language, the show will use a variety of stage tricks to relay the autistic experience. 

"We really are a developmental theater company," said Tiffany Redmon, the troupe's director of development and communications. "We raise funds to provide artists with what they need to build a show from the ground up."

The Tectonic Theater Project is well known for "The Laramie Project," which dealt with the homophobic murder of Matthew Shepard using interviews with people who lived in the town of Laramie, Wyoming.

The autism project has been in the works since 2011, and it will also make use of interviews with people on the autism spectrum, along with help from experts like staff at the NYU Child Studies Center and the Geisinger Institute.

The play will feature actor Andrew Duff, who was born with autism and could not speak until he was 5 years old.

"He wants to go on the road with it, so it really shows the impact of what a play like this can do," Redmon said.

At the end of the workshop, the play will have a final design and tech rider, which will help the company figure out where it will be able to travel. The goal, Redmon said, is to go all over the country and engage communities.

"We want to train artists, actors, even our office staff, on how to discuss autism or work with people on the spectrum," she said. "We also want to workshop with people on the spectrum, let them play with the props or talk with actors."

The play will have to raise more funds for a world premiere, but if all goes well it will open at the Gallagher Bluedorn Theater in Cedar Falls, Iowa, then open at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

"We are hoping this will promote dialogue and understanding and awareness," Redmon said. "We want to do away with stereotypes and diminish the impact of bullying."

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