Life with Tourette Syndrome
When I was nine I was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome which is a neurological disorder that causes severe tics (involuntary muscle movements or sounds). I came up against a lot of obstacles just trying to live my ordinary life. But especially I came up with a lot of obstacles trying to get in the theatre world. In high school I wasn't allowed backstage because I made too much noise. I didn't know much about theatre at the time but I did know that I really liked it. I didn't like that a simple disability that I was born with was going to keep me from pursuing it. So I decided I was going to have to be better than the "normal" people. I decided that I was going to have to learn better, train harder, and do better to make sure people saw my talent and not my disability. I still get asked to leave performances sometimes if I've been making too much noise. Because of this I've been an avid supporter for disabilities in the arts.
When I first stepped into the Theatre Department at Austin Peay State University (APSU) I was really scared. I knew that I was determined to be the best that I could be but I didn't know the first thing about doing real theatre. I just knew that I wanted to do all that I could. I decided that the best way to do this was to never leave the building. I think that the first mistake the freshmen make in college is to not spend as many of their waking moments in the department as they can. There are valuable relationships to be made and a foundation of experience to be laid before you can expect to get the big responsibilities. For me I tried to work on every show and volunteered to work in the scene shop building sets. That was usually work reserved for scholarship students or work study but I decided to do it for free. That and several other things got me so many opportunities and I ended up graduating with the honor of "Most Outstanding Graduating Senior". You may put in a lot of work and effort that you may think will never be noticed but it's the little things that you do now that pave the way later.
I currently just finished my second year of Grad School at Hollins University. I'm pursuing an MFA in Playwriting. When you're used to being a leader in undergrad...the super student...it's dizzying to realize that everyone in Grad School is the super student from their undergrad. All of the students, people that I hold dear as close friends and colleagues now, were always on top of their game and there wasn't anyone there to outshine. That's where I learned that Grad School is about outshining yourself, breaking past the limitations that you thought that you had. There were great professors there and a great program director that really challenge you to strive past the status quo. One summer session at Hollins undid all of the preconceptions I had about the art and myself about the artist. And that's what I believe makes a great grad program. It unmakes what you were when you came in and builds you into the seasoned professional that you were destined to be.
And Here I Am Now
This year has been a slow year for me. I've started up a production company that I'm running all by myself and planning a series of shows to try to pay the bills. It's a scary thought... that moment when you finally decide that you're going to trust your art to support you financially. You never think that your passion is going to become your career. But that's how good career's start don't you think? You have a dream early on as a kid you overcome all of the obstacles and hit the wall more times than you care to admit. You learn your trade and discover your identity in this world. And now you're trying to set out on your own. But if you laid the right foundation, your life will stand firm. Let's just hope my foundation works out.