Sunday, January 16, 2011

Playing the Part

Claire Danes just won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Temple Grandin in the HBO movie about Temple's life. The work that she had to do to get to that space was incredible. As a performer, there is the "work" that you need to do to prepare for a character. Physical, emotional, vocal. They are all essential parts of biting into the meat of the character you're trying to bring to life. 

Nathan is in a play, which is going up on Tuesday. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am for him. It's something he hasn't talked to me about. I almost didn't even know that the play was going to take place until I saw it on our weekly bulletin! But he has been working very hard at it. I ran into his music teacher at school a few weeks ago and she asked me, "Oh, Nathan is your son? He's an AMAZING singer."

Maternal and performer pride just about burst out of my chest. I had a secret desire that Nathan would follow in my footsteps onto the boards. Having Asperger's and ADHD put that in question. I was never sure what direction he wanted to go to. I knew he needed a place to express himself, in a way that felt comfortable and right to him. I would never pressure him into it if he didn't want to. I'm an actor, but not a stage mother. You can't make the unwilling bend to your will.

Nathan told me the other morning that he was nervous about doing his play. He asked me for advice. It was like the heavens opened up and glitter fell from the sky. All I wanted to do was make this grand display of theatrical knowledge and training to my son. It was like the time had COME.


I chose a different way to approach it. I told him that I had theater experience and I might be able to give him a few pointers. Now, to be fair, Nathan has seen me in costume since he was 5 months old. He is very familiar with me being a performer and me being on stage. However, I didn't expect him to connect me having all this experience when he asked for advice. I figured he was just coming to me as a kid with a problem. I didn't need to overburden him with all the other peripherals.
I told him that he should focus on an object across the room if he's speaking to the audience, like a clock or a picture. If he needs to speak to a friend on stage, he should focus on their face and if he's speaking or singing, to speak clearly and with volume, so everyone can hear him. 

He was so happy. He said, "Thanks, Mom! That makes me feel so much better!"

I know he has put the work into this, and it's his own work and not due to my prompting or browbeating. He wanted to do this on his own and he has. Don't get me wrong, the idea of him being an actor and expressing himself on stage is beyond my expectations. But it has to be what he wants. He has to find that path and it is my part to help him discover it and guide him to do the work to make it happen.

This clip is right at the end of the movie, and I was sobbing uncontrollably. It's where Temple thanks her mother for "having rules and manners" and sending her to school and how she is still autistic, but she is able to thrive in the path she has chosen because of her mother. Her mother gave her the tools to go on the path she chose. I hope that I have that happen to me someday. Then I will know that I have played my part, and played it well.


  1. that part of the movie made me cry too. of course, I was crying off and on the whole time...
    I think it's awesome that your son is in a play AND that he's coming to you for advice. That's terrific.
    I hope the play goes well and maybe someday we'll see him at the Golden Globes. Thanking YOU!

  2. @Alysia: I will be reporting on the play after it happens. I just want him to be happy and if being on stage does that, then all the better. And if he ever does get a Golden Globe and thank me, I will just about faint. :)