How My Brain Works vs How My Dad Does Things

Young people scoff at older folk. They think that they know how to do things better. They assume they are more up to date and savvy, especially when it comes to practical and technological things. For example, I always search the Internet for help with any project. I always find what I want—and fast. My dad, by contrast, is of the old school. He uses manuals that have seen better days. He relies on his memory and what his dad taught him. I have to admit that this method usually works well in the long run. After all, he is a well-schooled DIY handyman. Thus, when I needed a new toilet, I first turned to the Web and found a page called Rate My Toilet. I like to select products based on real user testimonials. What does dad know about self-cleaning, auto flush, hands free features, and the like.

I told him about my new quest and every day I had a new report. I liked this version one day and that model another. I couldn’t make up my mind. I printed pages of descriptions and made ample notes. The hunt for a mundane object went on and on. “Let me help you,” he asked seeing my consternation. I dismissed him as old fashioned. He wouldn’t know how to select what is right for me. He would think what I like is too expensive and fancy.

As time went on and I grew stubborn about my long, drawn-out process, he was getting annoyed and stopped talking to me about the new toilet. I had labeled me as indecisive in his mind. Where was the respect! I was on my own swimming in a sea of information. He was right. I couldn’t come down to the final selection. I couldn’t get enough of Internet research. It all got so complicated and became a jumble of options.

When I seemed to be reaching my breaking point, and I was close to failure, my dad called to say that he was coming over in his pickup truck. He usually drives a car to my house. So, I waited and he arrived in about an hour with a brief knock at the door. As I opened it, I saw a white round object in the back of the truck, shining for all it was worth. It was a porcelain throne, as they say, ready for installation in my bathroom. Dad soon had the old one out and stowed on the truck for disposal. Wow. The toilet was so nice. “I got in on sale at the home improvement store,” he beamed. “They had so many in all sizes and prices. And it was quick. I could see them all at once.” I understood the implication about my obsession with the Internet.

The toilet was a beauty, a reasonable purchase, and had all the bells and whistles anyone could want. Okay, dad. I give in. You know your stuff. He didn’t smile smugly, but just wrapped his comforting arms around me with love.

How Not to Land a Part

There are lots of ways to get a part. There are lots of ways to not get a part. You have to learn both of those if you actually want to get a part in time. For one thing, you have to check as many listings as possible in order to get a part, or you’re going to miss out on a lot of great opportunities to get an audition. You have to make sure that you’re going to be able to give yourself as many chances to succeed as possible, and that is really going to be difficult for a lot of people. If you can do that, though, you’ve already helped to give yourself a huge step forward.

You don’t want to pester the casting director or anyone else like that, for one thing. I’ve been tempted to do that, but unless you’re already connected to the casting director, that really isn’t going to work for you. You need to have a lot of connections in order to get ahead in acting and theater easily, and if you don’t, you’re just going to have to work a lot harder. That’s what I have to do and that’s what everyone has to do at that point. You gain the connections later. You can’t force them.

You also have to make sure that you land a part in the right place at the right time. There are lots of phony places for an audition today. You have to check up on all of the places for an audition to make sure that the audition is actually real. If you’re anything like me, you hate to consider the possibility that someone is laying and there’s part of you that wishes everything were as straightforward as it is in other areas of life. You can’t trust that calling for an audition is going to be a straightforward exercise, though, because that’s not going to be true in many cases.

Life Goals

I study acting and live in Los Angeles because it is the west coast center of the entertainment world. It is the place to encounter opportunities and I also love being around others seeking acting parts. We form an unspoken group—and a rather large one—that embraces movies and the theater of any kind. This doesn’t mean that this is the only place on earth for would-be actors. You can life in London or New York. There is a colony of us in all these metropolitan places. You hope to be exposed to talent scouts or the right people who will spread the word. You have your hopes and dreams that keep you moving on. I am young and have time to develop my skills. I will get as much out of Los Angeles (aka Hollywood) before moving on to see what other locations bring. I have the biggest fantasy about appearing on Broadway, even the smallest acting part. Newbies have been known to succeed so you can’t give up.

The energy and excitement of New York is incomparable. It is like no other city on earth. The climate and life style are different and if you are from Los Angeles, it takes some adaptation, which is not my strong suit. I often find that change brings problems and assorted issues, so I have to learn to cope. If I think about New York this far in advance, perhaps it will be easier when the time comes. I will have thought it through and imagined the best and the worst. I am a little reticent about public transportation, for example, and finding myself in a crowded subway or bus. I almost feel I can’t breathe when this happens. I would have to avoid both during peak rush hours. I can do that most of the time. I would miss my car and the independence it brings me in Los Angeles.

Because the city is so expensive, you don’t get much for your rental money. You usually can only afford a studio apartment or if you want to have more space, you can share with another fellow traveler in the acting field. I have heard that three or four people sometimes live in a one bedroom space. I am told that Brooklyn is cheaper even though it is farther than I want to be from Broadway. I want to live and breathe the theatrical air. I want to walk the streets and absorb the local culture. But I am also told that Brooklyn can offer you homes with a nice wood stove and a little yard for the same money for a Manhattan studio apartment.

That would add charm to the abode and encourage me to reside across the bridge. If I do get to move to New York, this will be a big consideration. I love the idea of a roaring fire in winter. It adds warmth and atmosphere to your home.

Debate with Dad

One of the great advantages of living at home as an adult is that you continue to interact with your parents on some level. You know longer feel that they are protecting you at every turn as you remain independent. But you do rely on them for food and shelter and you try to offer something in return. Maybe you do chores around the house or the yard or you run errands and do the grocery shopping.

When I am around my dad, I often seek his advice and he in turn seeks mine. It makes for some interesting conversations and debates. It can be trying at times depending upon the subject. Even trivial issues can be blown out of proportion. Given my Asperger’s, dad doesn’t bait me with silly requests. But things come up that can become a problem for someone who is less than patient. For example, the hot water keeps running out when I want to take a shower. If I am not the first person of the day, I am out of luck. You can hear me complain quite often. It is so frustrating and the lack of hot water has really become a pet peeve. Many things are for me; it’s in my nature, but this time I want to draw the line.

I tried to convince dad to buy a new water heater and that a good tankless model would be best. Why at this stage, would you want to go old fashioned. I know the tankless are more expensive, but they also save on utility costs. I started a debate with him over its advantages, but he remained stubborn and unconvinced. It did get his attention when I said the whole family would be appreciative of his foresight to buy the right thing. But it didn’t do the job and I had to continue on praising the tankless water heater to the skies. I went to a supplier and got some literature so he could read the pros and cons and select the perfect size for our home. I also told him that they were inexpensive to install and that any handyman could do it. In fact, the supplier would send over someone qualified if we bought the item from their store. How easy is that! Dad was a little more open and there was hope that we would soon end the debate. I might get hot water in the morning soon enough. I wanted to be guaranteed of a great shower to start my day. It would relax me and prepare me to cope well with what the4 day would offer.

To end the story, we did get the tankless water heater and had it properly installed. They hauled the worn-out old model away and I was not sorry to see it go. Glorious hot water was ours the very next day. The tank we selected was economical and perfect for the number of people who lived under one roof. Oh happy day!

Costume Challenges

I have challenges but I don’t let my Asperger’s get in the way. I acknowledge my limitations, just like anyone else, and move on. We all face the same trials and tribulations in life and cope the best we can. For some it is just a little harder. Each of us is unique and is made up of a genetic mix, personality traits, and emotional baggage. Think about yours. We can help each other if we share our circumstances and methods of dealing with the everyday issues that arise. The biggest point I want to make is not to make something more problematic or complicated than it really is. Calm down when adversity strikes, sit back and try to relax, and don’t fear the worst.

For example, I was recently asked to be in a play in a regional theater near my home. Acting is my favorite pastime and I am studying it in the capital of the entertainment world—Los Angeles. I am blessed to be able to take advantage of opportunities as one can lead to another. Because of my nature, I am not, however, keen on wearing costumes that others have worn. They are clearly used and this is typical in the dramatic arts. It still doesn’t mean I like it or can tolerate it well. I do what I have to if I want to stay in the cast. It is particularly a problem for me with shoes. I have an aversion to wearing used footwear because I am afraid of contracting athlete’s foot from them. I abhor the idea of even the smallest bit of toe fungus. It discolors the nails, can ooze into your socks, and smells bad. It is hard to clear up if you let it spread. If you have to comply with the director’s wishes and you can’t wear your own shoes for the part you are playing, at the very least wear stockings or thin socks.

While I often make my own costumes and most of the time they are acceptable, obviously I can’t fabricate shoes. In the theater, costumes are often period pieces and that goes for what is required on the feet. You can see every aspect of what you wear from the audience perspective, so it all has to make the perfect effect. So I can make a costume and borrow the shoes. I am not going to let yellow toenails get me down. I will spray my feet with preventative powder and hope for the best. I am seldom required to wear sandals on stage, which means a bare foot.

So this is how I cope with life’s problems. I find a solution and don’t let roadblocks get in my way. It is hard sometimes to do this, but you force yourself to go forward to accomplish your objectives, no matter what the task. I will always love acting and embrace every aspect of the theater, risking toe fungus and more.

My Pre-Audition Routine

Going to an audition really shouldn’t be that scary. You show up, you say the line, and then you leave. If they call you, great. If not, then you just keep on going and you have to hope that people are going to call you another time. The human brain is not perfectly rational, however, and that is not the way it is for a lot of us. We tend to act like our lives depended on the results of the audition. Reminding yourself that this is not the case is just not going to be enough in many cases.

I think that this gets easier as you keep on going in the world of theater. Eventually, all of your auditions blur together so much that you’re not going to have to worry about the ones that didn’t go so well unless something really embarrassing happens, and it probably won’t. However, that still isn’t going to make people feel much better if they’re still in the beginning stages. It doesn’t feel like that’s where I am. I feel like I’ve been on lots of auditions. I’m still a college student, though, and I’m way younger than a lot of actresses when they get their big breaks, so I guess I am still at the stage where each audition really feels like it matters and it will make or break your career.

One of the biggest problems for me as a person on the autistic spectrum is that I can have a hard time with sensory overload problems at times if I’m outside of my comfortable element. With an audition, comfort is going to be a big problem. I sometimes rock back and forth for a little while before an audition in order to calm myself down a little bit. It gets you into a state of flow, and that can be really important to someone like me.

I always rehearse the line a little bit before the audition. I try to make sure that I have everything memorized, even if the speech in question is really long. I want to make sure that I really do have everything down, and you really can’t do that unless you have memorized all of it and you have gotten to the point where you have rehearsed the speech or the line from many different angles. I like to make sure that I have really memorized everything and that I’m going to be able to give the best performance that I can.

Obviously, there is a point where you really have rehearsed too many times and you’re going to sound like a person who is basically reading the lines off of a billboard. You have to get past that stage, too. Once you’re past that stage, you can finally really give the performance that is going to make you famous, or at least, the performance that stands a really solid chance of you getting through your audition and into something that you’re going to remember positively for the rest of your life.

I Got a Part!

I dream of the perfect part, one that is challenging and shows all my acting strengths. I will be a major role and not a mere cameo. It will require hours of rehearsals and eat up all my free time. But no matter. It will be a wonderful part in a well-written play. I am not yet expecting to appear in any film. I love the theater and welcome an opportunity to tread the boards. I fantasize all the time about the ideal audition at which I excel. I come for the first call and compete with many actresses, but then I get a call back and audition once more. This is the normal process and I go through it with gusto. I finally get the part. Such is my on-going dream. It keeps me pumped up emotionally and gets me going. I know that someday I will prevail. I work hard in acting class, go to a lot of performances, and try to hone my craft. I love my life and its future-oriented perspective.

This dream, oddly enough, became a reality, but in a really different way. I got a part, but not in a movie or a stage production. Believe it or not, it was for an infomercial. Imagine that. I would be seen multiple times on TV for many months; plus I would have an addition to my rather sparse resume. I welcomed the role. Infomercials are generally low budget and this one was no exception. It was being produced to sell a new kind of electric pressure washer. A what? I never even touched one before. I had to do my research to find out what it can do. Now I understand. It is an everyday item that anyone would have. The infomercial would no doubt bring in inquiries and eventual sales. I was paid actor’s scale which is not a lot, but in six months if the infomercial were successful, I would get a bonus.

After my research I became a pressure washer expert and knew all the various models and types. I now know that you can clean the oily garage floor or dirt off the exterior of your house. You can get that caked on mud stuck to your car’s wheels when you drove for a few miles in the rain. You can clean debris off your sidewalk with a simple adjustment of the hose. Yes, it has different levels of pressure to tackle any residential or commercial job. If you get professional quality, it will be useful and last for years. No doubt I would be demonstrating this in the infomercial and I had to sound convincing and sure. With this knowledge behind me and my newfound respect for the product, I was ready to be filmed. It only took a day and we wrapped up on time. I was so excited to have been part of anything that would be public. Even better, I was given a complementary pressure washer to take home.

It was a Dark and Stormy Night

Sometimes I have major tales to tell, although my life is not always exciting. In fact, I try to stay calm most of the time and keep my emotions on an even keel. There are other times when I will recount mundane occurrences that nevertheless affect me to the core. You understand. Most of us go plodding through life one foot at a time. We just keep moving forward no matter what happens. In the midst of all the goings on that are simple or complex, I have to try to exercise, eat well, and get my required sleep. If I don’t, I know there is a price to pay. If I get less than six hours of rest, I am agitated the next morning. No one wants to wake up like that so I protect my time in slumberland as best I can.

One night this was not really possible because there was a nasty and lengthy thunderstorm. After a rough beginning, the menace knocked out the power and with it, my ceiling fan. I turn it on every night and if it is not operating, I miss it and start to toss and turn. It is not just to create circulating air, although it does that, or a night light. It functions as white noise, a term referring to a type of constant sound such as ocean waves or the whistling of a breeze. Everyone has their preference, but when you sleep to white noise, you rest more fully and for a longer period of time.

This particular night I was particularly restless having had a challenging day. I was attending an acting class and was asked to perform a difficult part in front of the other students. It was rather impromptu as requests go, typical of how the teacher operates. He wants you to think on your feet and not over prepare. I had ten minutes to review the material before I was up for criticism. It went pretty well, but nonetheless I was exhausted after finishing and couldn’t wait to get home. The afternoon hours passed and I was more than ready for bed at ten. But it was a dark and stormy night and you know what happened. I really was fidgety as I waited for hours for the power to come back on and activate my ceiling fan. I resorted to reading with a flashlight as my electricity didn’t work. I was at the mercy of Mother Nature. Only in the wee hours of the morning did the power return and thus the white noise of my fan. But it was too late and only a few hours remained before I had to get up and dress for work. It was a tough night, and the only benefit was that read a new play. It would be something we would be working on in acting class so I was a step ahead of the students. And now I could relax as I knew that this night, the fan would be on, making its soothing noise, to allow me to sleep.

The Ballad of Sweeney Todd

I have a long list of favorite Broadway plays and musicals of which Sweeny Todd is one. I see Angela Lansbury recreating one of her best roles for which she won more than one Tony. Imagine my excitement when I heard that there were auditions for this stellar work of art. It is a small role to be sure but who cares. I would be part of history. There are only so many classics in the theater which is why they are reviving so many old hits.

I put the audition date on my calendar and reread the play to prepare for my turn. I got to the rehearsal hall early to make sure I wouldn’t be late and miss my call. There were dozens of people waiting in line as I expected, but I didn’t let it get me down. Everyone has a chance so one day I will prevail. I so badly want to get my acting career off to a roaring start. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd would be ideal. It would be pure fun. I am gathering my wits about me and revving up my energy as I read for a part. They ask me if I could sing and dance and I quickly execute a few steps. I am in my element and hope to be recalled. They said they would post the finalists the next day on the rehearsal hall bulletin board. I could barely sleep that night. I had dreams about the play’s unique set. It has a creepy, but cool, barbershop chute and a really mean-looking meat grinder. It was scary enough to keep me awake for hours. The meat grinder in particular makes me cringe and gives me chills right down deep in my bones.

Sweeney Todd as a character is part and parcel of old Victorian melodrama which makes the modern version all the more interesting. Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler have executed a miraculous show that has stood the test of time. Now I have a shot at it myself. I could be part of resurrecting a macabre classic that revolves around—imagine this—meat pies. I have seen the piece a few times and each performance is different. This has helped me make my audition unique but in keeping with tradition. If you have not seen the play, by all means take advantage of it if it comes with a touring company to your town. You won’t get Angela, but you will get a great cast. You will see the weird set and experience the freakish oddness of the hit. It sure took imagination to put this drama together for the modern world. It is akin to stories like Lizzie Borden which was also made into a musical.

Wish me luck with my audition and soon I will reveal the results. I need every hand of support I can muster up. I need people rooting for me to prevail. Thanks for your time.

Kick Butt!

I am a real novice about some sports and form of exercise, not doing much in the way of a gym workout. However, now I have to sit up and take notice of boxing as I am trying out for a small part in a play that takes place in a boxing setting. I would be a boxer as part of the overall background, but I would have a few lines to say. More than the lines, I had to look the part and execute the right moves. Wearing the right clothing including those big gloves would help set the right tone. What fun. I have auditioned for so many jobs and each has its challenges. Some are more exciting than others and I crave parts which require me to learn new skills. Now it was time to add boxing to my normal fitness regime.

My gym has a couple of those large boxing bags but you can also work out with a sparring partner, but not in a ring. You work with a trainer who throws different punches at you to which you must quickly respond as you dance around each other. It can be tiring and it is a great way to stay in shape. The play had to do with a character who was about to go the distance and be a contender for the heavyweight title. There are many plays about boxers, but this one had a modern twist. The leading role was played by a woman. Think Laila Ali. Boy can she kick butt. She also was a finalist on Dancing with the Stars so I admire her no end. She is one of my idols for her versatile talents. When you are trying to establish a career in acting, you also have to be flexible and open to new things.

As I worked out and prepared for the role, I imagined Laila next to me egging me on. Go for it, she would scream. After weeks of enjoyment, I felt in shape and ready to try out for the part. I had to look like I, too, could kick butt. I think I was convincing at the audition and knew my way around a punching bag for sure. I knew how to put on gloves, lace up the proper shoes, and more. I was a boxer incarnate. Don’t be surprised, therefore, that I got a call back and eventually the part. Okay, its small, but I loved the role. I continued to stay in shape as I learned to express physical emotions. I had to convey them for people in the audience at a distance. I was sublimely on stage charged with energy and zeal.

The play got a good review and I was sorry when its short run was over. It was just a local production and not destined for Broadway. But it is an example of how surprising the acting field can be and how open-ended. Now on to the next audition and exciting role.

My Favorite Film

I have a lot of favorite movies, even though as a person on the autistic spectrum, I have a hard time with movies sometimes. For one thing, lots of scripts are written in such a way that a lot of the exposition and lines of dialogue are removed. There is this idea that an expression from an actor is going to tell you more than a whole passage of dialogue. I don’t think that this is true.

I think that this is just something that scriptwriters say so that they can be lazy. I also think that this is a function of the fact that you have to do everything in a really minimalist way if it is a movie. You only have two hours to work with and you have to make sure that every single line counts. I think that’s why I consider the 2011 film Margaret to be my favorite film.

This isn’t a film that a lot of people know about today, even though it isn’t an old movie yet. However, I really think that it’s a movie that manages to almost transcend the genre of movies. I have always liked books and television shows better than movies because they have so much more content and they are not as formulaic as movies, which are formulaic even at the best of times. Margaret is not a terribly formulaic movie, and that is why I like it so much.

The characters do not feel like they are just there in order to prop up the story. The characters actually act the way real people do, and that is not the kind of thing that you ever see in the movies. It isn’t just that the actors really act well, although the acting in the movie is very good. It’s that the conversations feel like real conversations because they don’t have a clean and streamlined formulaic look and feel.

I’m a stickler for accuracy in pretty much everything, and it’s great to see how real people actually are reflected in a movie. I really wish more movies would be like this, but movies have actually taken a step back. Margaret was actually filmed in 2005, and movies all throughout the 2010’s have been bad action sagas and special effects showcases. There are barely any well-written and quirky movies these days, and as someone who’s just a little bit quirky, I want that and I miss that.

I try to let movies like Margaret inform my performances. I feel that the movies these days may not get it, but that people really do like the more modernistic performances. Most of the shows that exist today are basically full of people just having casual conversations. They reflect the way people actually talk. I like that, and I think that movies should tend to feature more performances and effects like that instead of the action movie performances and action movie effects.

Maybe movies are not going to last. People might become so sick of them that they’re going to just stick to television, which is much better these days anyway, and which is getting more and more fans all the time. Then again, maybe movies are going to change. I have a hard time watching really old movies from before the 1970’s because the acting tends to be very melodramatic. I also don’t like all of the huge musical stabs. Movies today are not like that. They reflect reality much better. I think that the movies in the future are probably going to be like that. At the very least, they are probably going to have to be like that.

As an actress, I can’t wait to see how movies and acting will change in the future. Actors used to be told to be as dramatic as possible. They were not told that they should try to act like people do in real life. In fact, if they did that, people would have said that the performance was really boring and that they were just acting like everyday people and that no one wanted to see that happen. However, that really is not the case today. Today, actors are told that their performance is good if it is realistic. That is the performance that you have to cultivate if you want to be good today. I feel that the movie Margaret manages to show off how great that kind of acting is, and I think it is a movie that really reveals that mindset as well.

Fitting in at School

Fitting in at school wasn’t easy for me until around high school. I had a really hard time with all of the social niceties when I was in school. I ended up over-sharing with a lot of kids at school and they had a hard time getting used to me. I also had a difficult time when it came to not talking endlessly about stuff that I found interesting. It really created a situation where I didn’t have a lot of friends and almost everyone that I knew really liked to make fun of me.

One of the great things about high school and college is that it felt like everyone really grew up. Then again, it also probably just felt like that because I had changed and I had learned not to bother other people.

One of the things that have gotten better in my lifetime is that there is a lot more awareness about autism these days. I’m really young, I know, but the world changes really fast these days, and it looks like it is changing for the better. People barely even used to know about autism when I was a kid, or that’s how it seems. Or they thought that everyone who had autism was just like the brother in Rain Man. It’s getting easier and easier for those of us who are very mild on the spectrum and who do not have the savant syndrome that has characterized the portrayals of a lot of people on the spectrum.

People are more accepting of me, so that has definitely helped. However, I think I’m better at understanding them, and I know that this has helped a lot. I also think that this is one of the reasons why I decided to get into acting in the first place. I really wanted to learn how and why people do the things that they do, and I think that this is the sort of thing that has given me some ability when it comes to acting.

Maybe this would have been better if I had had some more intuitive understanding of why people do what they do. However, I really do think that I had an advantage as an autistic person who tends to understand how people behave in a more academic manner. Lots of actors have to go back and learn how to understand people in this manner as well. The thing is, I had to do that anyway. There are days in which I think that this has actually helped me. I’ve been trying to understand people intellectually for a long time, and some people in my acting classes only just started at eighteen. I’ve been trying to fake neuro-typical facial expressions for a long time as well. Basically, as an autistic person, I’ve been in acting school for so long that when I actually entered the real thing, it actually made everything a lot easier.

Why Do They Say Break a Leg?

Speaking as someone who’s a little bit on the autistic spectrum, I’ve never really liked expressions like ‘break a leg.’ I do know that they don’t mean to literally break your leg and that it isn’t an actual threat or anything like that. I have to work a little harder to remind myself of that, though, and I really don’t like to have to do that just so people can tell an overused joke.

Then again, I’ve accepted that this is really the kind of thing that’s just become a part of modern parlance, and I’m just going to have to live with it. I should probably give a little bit of an explanation for my fellow autistic travelers.

They say to ‘break a leg’ because that’s one of the worst things that can happen. The idea is that if you ironically mention that something bad is going to happen, and then something good is probably going to happen instead. At least, that’s how a lot of people mean it when they say to break a leg before an audition.

A lot of people don’t even think about what the expression means these days. It could really mean anything to a lot of people nowadays. Being able to break a leg before an audition is one thing if you think about it ironically, but for a lot of people, you may as well be saying ‘blah blah blah’ before an audition, and it would mean the same thing.

Today, people mean this ironically because the irony was a very basic form of expression for a long time, and it still is today. In the past, people did not use irony as often as a basic means of communication. People were more superstitious in the past, and the phrase ‘break a leg’ reflected a superstitious idea that things in the theater that are bad luck are actually good luck. As such, you would have to wish bad luck on someone in order to give him or her good luck in reality.

We know that this expression has been used in print since Edna Ferber’s 1939 work, ‘A Peculiar Treasure.’ It’s been used in a lot of movies, television shows, books, newspaper articles, and even theatrical reviews since then. This expression is not going to go away any time soon, although people still are probably not going to be using it forever.