The Fountain Theatre’s West Coast Premiere of On the Spectrum has been named a Highlight of 2013 Theater by writer Don Shirley in LA Stage Times. Written by Ken LaZebnik and directed by Jacqueline Schultz, the funny and poignant play dramatized the relationship between two young people with autism.
The final bow for ‘On the Spectrum’ at the Fountain Theatre.
The final bow for our acclaimed West Coast Premiere of On the Spectrum finally came last Sunday, April 28th, ending a wonderful run of rave reviews and enchanted audiences. Critics and theatergoers were swept away by the heartfelt vulnerability of the script by Ken LaZebnik, the vision and storytelling of the direction by Jacqueline Schultz, the honest passion of the cast (Jeanie Hackett, Virginia Newcomb, Dan Shaked) and the magic of the design team (set – John Iacovelli, lights – Christopher Stokes, video – Jeff Teeter, sound – Peter Bayne, costumes – Naila Alladin-Sanders, props – Misty Carlisle).
A Fountain shout-out to our fabulous production crew: Production Stage Manager – Corey Womack, Assistant Stage Manager – Terri Roberts, Board Operator Jennifer Seifert, House Manager – Jessica Turner, Tech Director – Scott Tuomey).
Our thanks to The Help Group for their support of this production. On the Spectrum was a deeply rewarding run that opened a window for many of us, allowing us to peer into a world we may not otherwise see.
A post-show closing party was held after the final matinee performance last Sunday. Enjoy some snapshots!
In our current West Coast premiere of On the Spectrum, an online e-chat between two young people with autism blossoms into a friendship and unforgettable love story. Now’s your chance to chat live online with the two lead actors who play that autistic couple.
Live chat with actors Virginia Newcomb and Dan Shakedfrom On the Spectrum tonight, Wednesday April 17 @ 8pm PST. They will be online LIVE on ustream.tv/channel/autism-in-love
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Virginia Newcomb & Dan Shaked in ‘On the Spectrum’ at the Fountain Theatre
‘On the Spectrum’ Cast & Director Join ‘Autism in Love’ Film Makers and Autism Specialists for Post-Show Q&A
A special Q&A Talkback will immediately follow the performance of On the Spectrumthis Thursday, April 18th. Scheduled to speak and answer questions from the audience are Dr. Jason Bolton, Chief Psychologist, and Pamela Clark, Director of Autism Schools, from The Help Group; Carolina Groppa, Producer, and Matt Fuller, Director, of the independent film, Autism in Love, andNancy Alspaugh-Jackson of Autism Care and Treatment (ACT Today). The On the Spectrum cast — Jeanie Hackett, Virginia Newcomb and Dan Shaked — and director Jacqueline Schultz will also join the discussion and answer questions from the audience.
The Help Group is the largest, most innovative and comprehensive nonprofit of its kind in the United States serving children with special needs related to autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse and emotional problems. It is proud to be a sponsor of the Fountain Theatre’s West Coast premiere of On the Spectrum.
Autism in Love is a feature length documentary film currently in production exploring how adults with autism fall in love and manage romantic relationships. Due for release in 2014.
ACT Today! is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to raise awareness and provide treatment services and support to families to help their children with autism achieve their full potential.
Join us for the Q&A immediately following the performance on Thursday, April 18th at 8pm. It’s going to be fun and interesting.
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Actress Virginia Newcomb, Help Group CEO Barbara Firestone, actress Jeanie Hackett and actor Dan Shaked at the ‘On the Spectrum’ post-show reception.
Staff, faculty and friends of The Help Group attended the Sunday matinee of On the Spectrum yesterday and enjoyed a post-show reception with the cast immediately following the performance. Everyone was thrilled seeing the play and had a lovely time schmoozing with the artists and staff at the Fountain.
Founded in 1975, The Help Group is the largest, most innovative and comprehensive nonprofit of its kind in the United States serving children with special needs related to autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse and emotional problems. The Help Group is a proud sponsor of the Fountain Theatre’s West Coast premiere of On the Spectrum. Among those attending the Sunday matinee from The Help Group were President/CEO Barbara Firestone, Chief Operating Officer Susan Berman, Director of Public Affairs and Special Projects Bradley Shahine, and Director of Autism Schools Pamela Clark.
On the Spectrum is a funny and touching love story between two people with autism. In the play, an online e-chat between Mac, who has Asperger’s, and Iris, who has autism, blossoms into a friendship and love story with a unique and unforgettable difference. The production has earned rave reviews and ends April 28.
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Our acclaimed West Coast Premiere of Ken LaZebnik’s On the Spectrum chronicles the blossoming love story between Mac and Iris, two young people with autism. Meet real-life couple David and Lindsey. They, too, haven’t let their autism get in the way of falling in love.
By Thea Trachtenberg and Lindsay Goldwert
David Hamrick, 29, and Lindsey Nebeker, 27, look likea typical couple in love,but what’s not apparent is how hard they’ve worked to be together.
Hamrick and Nebeker live together in a Jackson, Miss., apartment, yet they have separate bedrooms, eat meals apart and spend most of their time focused on their own interests.
This unusual setup is how Hamrick and Nebeker, who are bothautistic, make their relationship work.
About 1.5 million people in the United States have autism, with varying degrees of severity. Manypeople with autism strugglewith the most basic social interactions, so finding love may seem like an impossibility.
Hamrick and Nebeker are high-functioning but, since childhood, both have found it difficult to make friends and even harder to keep them.
“All of her socialization had to be learned, usually by hard experience,” said Nebeker’s father, Gordon Nebeker.
Autistic people can also be hypersensitive to touch and sound. Hamrick can’t stand when the room is too warm and cringes at certain sounds; Nebeker can’t take florescent lights; and both are profoundly uncomfortable with small talk.
Lindsey Nebeker and David Hamrick
Learning to Interact with Autism
Despite their difficulties, they both kept trying to reach out and connect with others. Nebeker learned to make friends by reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Hamrick had tried to untangle the rules of dating by reading self-help books.
“No one teaches you to flirt,” said Diane Twactman-Cullen, editor in chief of Autism Spectrum Quarterly. “Individuals with autism would really be at a loss. So there might be some missed signals.”
When Hamrick and Nebeker met in 2005 at an autism conference, Hamrick was smitten.
“I pretty much liked everything about her,” he said. “She was very sweet, easy to talk to, and a good listener.”
But Nebeker was unsure.
“In my early 20s, I had decided I was no longer going to seek a relationship,” she said. “I was mainly going to focus on my career and my friends that I had been able to make and keep.”
They became friends. Then one day when they were at a café, Hamrick knew he was making progress when he put his hand on hers.
“My heart was racing,” Hamrick said. “I was fearful it might not work out the way I had anticipated, but the fact that she didn’t pull back and she was able to hold my hand there for at least five minutes, I was very touched by that.”
Mac (Dan Shaked) and Iris (Virginia Newcomb) in ‘On the Spectrum’
Living Together With Separate Needs
After two years of dating, they took the huge step of moving in together, despite their unique and separate needs.
Nebeker admits that it seems highly unusual for a typical couple to agree to separate bedrooms.
“We both understood the importance of an individual with autism needing their own space,” she said.
When they are in their apartment, they are rarely together. Hamrick, a meteorologist, is often in his room on the computer or absorbed in the Weather Channel while Nebeker, a musician, can get lost for hours playing the piano and working on her music.
A romantic dinner for two presents major challenges.
“There are a number of sounds that are unpleasant to me,” Hamrick explained. “Such as chewing sounds and crunching sounds.”
And Nebeker has many complicated eating rituals. Her napkin has to be placed just so and her meals prepared in just the right way.
“Sometimes Dave will spontaneously ask, ‘Hey, you want to go out for dinner tonight?’ And I break into sobs and I say, ‘I am so sorry, I just can’t. I just can’t,'” Nebeker said.
Virginia Newcomb & Dan Shaked in ‘On the Spectrum’.
The couple’s parents have seen their children struggle with their disorder and are in awe of the way the two care for each other and express their love and devotion.
“Being high functioning is almost more difficult than being low functioning,” said Gordon Nebeker. “You are so close to there, and yet not quite — and that is heartbreaking.”
But for all the compromises, the couple’s love story is actually a pretty traditional one, one of deep understanding and acceptance.
“When I have had a bad day at work or just a bad day for some other reason — and I come home, I don’t even have to say anything, he senses it. Dave will come up to me and start cuddling up to me and that’s really all I need,” Nebeker said. “I know that I am with a partner who is not going to judge me for certain eccentricities I have.”
On the Spectrum at the Fountain Theatre
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Cormac is a young man who lives with his mother, Elisabeth, in a tiny apartment in New York City’s West Village. He is preparing to enter law school and Elisabeth’s employer has cut back her hours, so money is tight. Iris, a young blogger from Queens, hires Cormac to design her website. What ensues is a boy meets girl love story unlike any other.
Dan Shaked and Virginia Newcomb
Writer Ken LaZebnik’s highly acclaimed drama, “On the Spectrum,” provides a glimpse into the minds and hearts of two people faced with autism spectrum disorders. The production, directed by Jacqueline Schultz and currently on stage at the Fountain Theatre, captures the strengths and quirks of the main characters as they navigate through life. More importantly, the play serves as a testament to the need for increased awareness about autism.
The play “does a great a job of breaking down the myths about autism” says Schultz. “They can feel. They can fall in love. They can get actively involved in their own community.”
Dan Shaked & Jeanie Hackett in “On the Spectrum”
Rave reviews are rolling in for our West Coast Premiere of On the Spectrum by Ken LaZebnik, directed by Jacqueline Schultz. The Hollywood Reporter hails it as “Incandescent!” and Broadway World calls it “life-affirming” and “engrossing theatre that should be experienced by everyone.” The Examiner exclaims “If you have the opportunity to get to one play this spring, On the Spectrum is the one to see!”
Advance LA is proud to welcome LaZebnik to Day One of the Innovate Conference on Friday, April 26th, from 12:50 to 1:50pm, where he will be giving a presentation about his celebrated production. In addition, the play’s three actors — Dan Shaked as Mac, Virginia Newcomb as Iris, and Jeanie Hackett as Elisabeth — are scheduled to perform a scene from the play for Friday’s conference attendees.
Advance LA is an innovative program created and operated by The Help Group to support teens and young adults with autism, Asperger’s and other learning issues in their transition to independence.
This year’s Advance LA conference, INNOVATE, will bring together experts and innovators from diverse fields to join in exploring the newest thinking on how best to support young people preparing for a successful transition to college, the workforce, and beyond. The conference will focus on the need to devise innovative, practical, and sustainable solutions to answer questions that arise during the transitioning period, a crucial time for young people who face challenges that differ from those confronting many of their peers.
Meet the playwright and cast of On the Spectrum at the Advance LA conference on Friday, April 26th, from 12:50 to 1:50, at the American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90077.
“As with all great love stories, there are obstacles,” says Jacqueline Schultz, director of the West Coast premiere of Ken LaZebnik‘s play “On the Spectrum,” now playing to terrific reviews at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles. Quirky and unexpected, “On the Spectrum’ is a love story with a difference; in LaZebnik’s award-winning play, an online e-chat blossoms into a courtship between two young people with autism. “Ken’s play is original, charming and moving.”
Schultz is an award-winning actress and a theater director at The Help Group’s Summit View School for students with learning differences. The Help Group is the largest and most innovative nonprofit of its kind in the U.S. serving children with autism, learning differences and other special needs. She was immediately drawn to the project. “Theater is about all of those things that help children learn,” says Schultz. “The art form has a special way of helping autistic children learn because it helps kids discover how to act together with others.”
In LaZebnik’s play, Mac has Asperger’s, and Iris is autistic. Many people on the autism spectrum take pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world. Mac (Dan Shaked), whose mother Elizabeth (Jeanie Hackett) provided years of mainstreaming and therapy, passes as “typical.” He connects online with Iris (Virginia Newcomb), an activist who proudly champions her autism as a difference, not a disorder. A relationship quickly forms between the two.
“The play demonstrates how technology has allowed the characters to communicate what’s inside, rather than be judged on the outside,” says Schultz.
Dan Shaked and Jeanie Hackett
“Part of the love story is a mother’s love for her son,” says LaZebnik. “His mother has been his guardian and shield, his whole life. The potential of him going off with this girl obviously is hard for her, and it’s hard for him to contemplate leaving her.”
“Iris has an opinion. Elizabeth has an opinion. Mac bridges both of those worlds,” says Schultz. “Ken does a great a job of breaking down the myths about autism and autistic people. They can feel. They can fall in love. They can get actively involved in their own community.”
“I would love it,” LaZebnik says, “if people saw these characters as just two unique human beings who fall in love.”
Winner of a 2012 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award citation and a 2011 Edgerton Foundation New American Play award, “On the Spectrum” was commissioned by Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, where artistic director Jack Reuler directed the premiere as part of the Center of the Margins Festival. Ken LaZebnik has written two other plays about autism: Vestibular Sense, which also premiered at Mixed Blood, was honored with an award from the American Theatre Critic’s Association at the Humana Festival in Louisville; and Theory of Mind, commissioned for young audiences by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, has also been produced in Minnesota, Hawaii and Michigan, and was published by Dramatic Publishing.
Schultz has worked as a theater director/educator with learning disabled students for over 12 years. As a professional actress, she was recently seen at the Fountain in the U.S. premiere of Athol Fugard’s “The Blue Iris.”
Ken LaZebnik’s “On the Spectrum” is earning wonderful reviews and is currently running at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles through April 28.
Last night was the gala Opening Night for our West Coast Premiere of On the Spectrum by Ken LaZebnik, directed by Jacqueline Schultz. The sold out packed house was filled with press, friends, subscribers, and enthusiastic audience members. Response to the play and production was very strong and positive, with lots of excited buzz and chatter after the performance.
Among those enjoying the Opening Night performance and after-party were Barbara Firestone, President and CEO of The Help Group, Rita Berens, playwright Ken LaZebnik and his wife Kate Fuglei, director Jacqueline Schultz, Los Angeles set designer Tom Buderwitz, as well as members of the On the Spectrum design and production team.
On the Spectrum is a funny, touching and powerful love story between two young people with autism, starring Jeanie Hackett, Virginia Newcomb and Dan Shaked. The production is sponsored, in part, by The Help Group.
The performance was followed by a catered reception in the Fountain’s upstairs cafe. Enjoy some photos!
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