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Chester County Press

Barley Sheaf production looks at world of autism

04/05/2016 10:10AM ● By J. Chambless

Rachel Diamond portrays the title character in Barley Sheaf’s production

By Doug Schultz

April is National Autism Awareness Month, so it’s appropriate that the Barley Sheaf Players’ spring drama Lucy will open on April 22. The play tells the story of 13 year-old Lucy, who has been diagnosed with autism. For years, she has been cared for by her nurturing father, but due to a change in circumstances, Lucy’s mother, Vivian, becomes her primary caretaker. Vivian is a scientist, and decides to develop a new research project on autism. As she embarks on her new project and learns to navigate her new role with Lucy, she begins to discover more about herself, and she begins to wonder if perhaps she and her daughter are not so different after all.

Lucy is not a very well-known show. It never appeared on Broadway and is not often performed in the community theatre circuit. It tackles difficult questions, asking whether we need to “cure” people with autism, or to consider whether they may simply have a different set of skills than those without autism. The play is not designed to be an after-school special; it does not “preach” about autism, nor does it dictate what the answers should be to the many questions regarding autism. It allows the audience to question for themselves: Is autism a “disorder,” or, perhaps, might it be considered a form of evolution?

Though Lucy struggles with communicating verbally, she occasionally steps out of character, talking directly to the audience. Playing a role such as this can be quite a challenge, admits Rachel Diamond, who portrays the title character in Barley Sheaf’s production. However, as Diamond notes, there are many more facets to Lucy’s personality than just the fact that she has autism. When she is on stage, Diamond says, “I try to forget about ‘playing autistic’ and just play Lucy.”

Cindy Schneider, who directs this production, is no stranger to working with children with autism. She was a special education teacher for over 20 years, teaching (and learning from) many students who fall under the autism spectrum. In 2007, Schneider opened the Acting Antics art center, where children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders engage in music and drama exercises to better understand social interactions and learn to communicate their own thoughts and feelings in a unique way. Acting Antics is located in Malvern and runs theater and dance camps year-round specifically designed for youth with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Schneider has even written a book, titled Acting Antics, which serves as a practical guide on how to make use of theater games and techniques for youth on the spectrum. Her unique experience working with children with autism has provided her with a unique perspective in directing Lucy.

Lucy will run on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 pm. from April 22 through May 7. To reserve tickets or find more information about the show, visit Tickets may also be reserved by calling 610-363-7075. 

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