This Actor on the Autism Spectrum Has a One-Man Show About His Life
George Steeves is a professional actor on the autism spectrum who wrote and is starring in his own one-man show about life with Asperger’s syndrome. He studied at California Lutheran University in Los Angeles.
When I worked as a video producer at The Mighty, I got to work with George on a video adaptation of one of our most-read stories: Lamar Hardick’s “When People Say, ‘You Look Tired.'” The experience made me want to learn more about George, so I asked him to do a quick interview with me. Here’s what I learned:
What was your early childhood like?
I was very oblivious as a child… When I was a toddler, my mom sensed that something was “off” because my motor skills seemed a bit impaired and I didn’t make eye contact much. When I was 3, I couldn’t communicate well. All I knew how to say was, “Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty.”
My mom placed me with different psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, therapists, etc. At first I was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder (PDP) and ADHD. Then I received a diagnosis of Asperger’s when I was 11 years old. Growing up in the 90s in rural Virginia, people didn’t know what Asperger’s was.
What was that like?
The public school system in Virginia was terrible, and my mom knew I wouldn’t survive, so I went to a small private school called Woodland Academy (15 people in my grade). I still got picked on, but it was more for being the only boy in my class.
At what age did you start doing theater?
I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was in sixth grade and did my first play. Of course, there weren’t many opportunities in Virginia and Pennsylvania, but then I ultimately moved to Los Angeles when I was 19 to start college at CLU. Then I started pursuing acting professionally when I was 21.
What was auditioning like in LA?
I would get so nervous, but as I got more practice the nerves would go away. Even though I couldn’t get an agent at first, I had booked 20 projects in my first year.
What was your first professional project?
I did a SAG short film called “The Wolf,” so I became eligible to join the union, which helped me get an agent and manager.
What made you want to do a one-man show?
I was watching an episode of “Oprah’s Master Class” with Whoopi Goldberg and how she did a one-woman show, so I thought, “Maybe I can do a one-man show!” So I started to develop the idea about struggling as an actor but then found a producer who convinced me to make the show about life with Asperger’s. The show ended up being based off a song I wrote, “Magic 8 Ball.” The story is told through a Magic 8 Ball. I talk about the trials and tribulations about growing up with Asperger’s, not being able to communicate verbally, being teased, verbally auditioning for American Idol, coming out to LA to join an acting class that ended up being a cult, etc. It’s basically me running a marathon trying to make a career and trying to find everyone else’s validation and in the end, I realize the only person I need to validate is myself.
How’s the experience been so far?
It’s a therapeutic experience. I’m reliving being a child, experiencing heartbreak, failed auditions and the like. I’m really hoping my story will inspire others. We have such a divided nation right now. We have a leader who made fun of a disabled reporter, and the appointment of our Secretary of the Department of Education broke my heart. My community isn’t feeling very supported right now.
Doing this play saved my life. What I say at the end of the show is that it’s not a mistake for me to be here and it’s not a mistake for any of us on the autism spectrum to be here.
What’s the show’s final line?
“Please take the time to know us, please don’t put us into a corner, we are just like you.”
George’s show “Magic 8 Ball (My Life With Asperger’s)” plays at the Sacred Fools Theater in Hollywood, California. For more information, head here.
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