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TFN Video Blog - Chelsea: Playing an Autistic Character in "Foreign Lands"

TFN Video Blog - Chelsea: Playing an Autistic Character in "Foreign Lands"

Hi, my name is Chelsea Roach, and I'm here with Theater Fanatic, and I'm going to tell you a story.  So I've been in New York for about two and a half years now, and about nine months ago I auditioned for a role, as you do when you're an actor, and the audition was great.  I just tried to play and have fun.  I got really nervous, almost forgot my lyrics to a song, and so I was really surprised when I got the phone call later, because I thought I had nailed this one savvy British character, and it turned out they wanted me for the little autistic savant.  It was shocking.  But I was extremely excited, because how could you not want a character like that?  I mean, the range, the excitement, a whole new way of thinking.  It was so intriguing to me I could not pass it down, immediately said yes and was off to process.  With that sort of a character though, you have to have so many different layers.  I Had to do a northern ? a Jordie Northern English accent as well, so that was the first thing I focused on, the accent, so that would not be muddled later by the lisp and also the nature of the character.  So once I had that down, then I started reading autistic savant books by Temple Grandin, Daniel Tammet, anyone I could get my hands on, really, to hear their perspective of how they really socialized themselves with people who weren't autistic.  The thing that really opened up my body was watching Youtube videos that parents had filmed of their children.  They were so proud of their children dancing and singing and moving and just being completely who they were, and it just it made me learn all these little ticks and cues and little physical things that they would do, and kind of learn the mindset of this playful, impish kind of childlike wonder that they seem to all have. And once I started getting all those things, I put them all together and I had just the most amazing time onstage.  I've never felt more free as a character.  I mean, at the end of the piece there was this one night where this man took me aside and just was enthralled by my performance and could not stop talking to me, and I found out through the conversation that he had a son who was autistic, and through my performance he felt like I understood a part of his life that no one else did.  And I connected with him on a level that no one else did.  And he wanted to know what I thought about the character, why she chose the things she did, how she was manipulated and why.  And I mean, our discussion lasted for several hours and we were just talking so much about how this is, and I think that's exactly what the theater is meant to do.  It's meant to connect with people and make them feel like they're not alone anymore.  And so the fact that I could play this character and this man who actually had an autistic son could feel connected to me, I'm honored.  I'm truly honored.  It's a little overwhelming, but I think that's what we're here for.  I'm Chelsea Roach, and this has been Theater Fanatic Network.