Dancing Lessons is a comedic play about an unlikely friendship/romance between a dancer and a scientist with high-functioning autism.
What do you like about Dancing Lessons?
It is VERY FUNNY and accomplishes a lot in a short time. By the end of 90 minutes you are laughing, crying, and might even have a deeper appreciation for people on the autism spectrum—I know I did after I read it.
What do you think is most challenging/interesting/exciting about the play?
The romance in the play evolves rapidly so getting that to work in a way that rings true given the huge differences between these people is a challenge. I also want each character’s journey to feel authentic. I want audiences to empathize with each character and root for them to connect. Figuring out all of those details is the fun part of directing, though.
What is your favorite part of the directing process?
Working with the designers and actors. I love the collaborative process. I like hearing all of the varying ideas that come from different people reading the same play. It is exciting to find unique ways to tell a story onstage while doing justice to the author’s original intent. I also love it when actors try new things in rehearsal and surprise me. It keeps me on my toes and challenges me to think about an approach to a line or a moment in a way I had not before. That’s when the work gets really interesting.
Have many aspects of the show changed from your original plans?
In terms of design, nothing has changed. We did end up having to replace our lead actor a week before rehearsals began, which was unfortunate. The original actor cast had a family emergency and he reluctantly had to bow out of the show. We were all sad about it. Then Andrew Butterfield very graciously stepped up to play the part of ‘Ever’ and has been doing an incredible job of breathing life into a character he has come to know in a short time. The play is going to be different than I originally imagined, but I am very pleasantly surprised at how wonderfully this pairing fits the play too.
What makes Dancing Lessons relatable to audiences here and now?
It is a classic love story. Opposites attract and they each become better people because their connection challenges their preconceived notions of ‘self’. I personally love that the playwright took the time to create layers of dysfunction within each character and also their own mechanisms to deal with them. In rehearsal we’ve been talking about how each character ‘stims’ to cope with their anxieties but only one of the ways they do it is considered ‘unusual.’ Funnily enough, the unusual coping mechanism is actually the healthier way of dealing with things. I also love that these characters are broken but not because they have a broken leg and autism. They are just struggling to better themselves and we catch them both in a moment of difficult transition; these kinds of moments are universally relatable.
What types of conversations do you want audience members to have on their way home from seeing this play?
I want to have conversations that help unpack preconceptions about people on the Autism spectrum. I know I have preconceptions and have been learning a lot through the process of working on this play.