Tag Archives: Asperger’s syndrome

Get “Reel”

Perhaps "Reel Mind" is an idea whose time has come here in Arizona

Mental illness impacts the lives of at least one in four adults and one in 10 children, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They’ve done the math, noting that 60 million Americans are affected. Yet mental illness gets a lot less attention than other health issues.

Depression is to autism what pancreatic cancer is to breast cancer in terms of media coverage. They’re all devastating, but society focuses too often on a few conditions to the exclusion of others. It’s a painful reality for families whose loved ones live with the equivalent of medical minorities. So I’m always eager to spread the word about lesser tackled topics.

There’s an affiliate of Mental Health America in Rochester, New York that’s working with other organizations to raise awareness of diverse mental health issues next week through something called “Reel Mind.” It’s a “theatre and film series about mental illness,” now in its fourth season. Originally a film festival, this year’s “Reel Mind” has been expanded to include an art exhibit and theater performance.

Series selections are designed to “address the social stigma of mental illness and offer the message that recovery is possible.” Each is followed by a discussion with experts in the mental health field. Series co-director Ruth Cowing says their Q & A sessions are well attended. “With this, almost everyone stays in their seat.”

“A lot of people come with their own stories or struggles of family members and hope to find information,” says Cowing. This year’s offerings cover schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and autism. The “Reel Mind” film series takes place May 8 through June 26. Perhaps those in Arizona who can’t attend will consider creating something similar for families in the Southwest.

“The Reel Mind” series opens with a documentary titled “Crazy Art,” which “tells the story of three talented artists with schizophrenia as they search for identity, acceptance and recovery.” The “study in hope” also tackles a bit of art history, considering how artists like Van Gogh created brilliant works while in the throws of psychiatric symptoms. The screening will be accompanied by an art show called “Metamorphosis” curated by the Creative Wellness Center.

A “Reel Mind” fundraiser taking place May 18 includes a Blackfriars Theatre production of “Grey Gardens,” a musical that considers the lives of two well-connected socialites who become East Hampton’s most notorious recluses. “Grey Gardens” features book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie. I remember listening to the music many years ago after my daughter Lizabeth checked the CD out from our local library.

“Reel Mind” presents “Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter,” an Oscar-nominated documentary about “the various stages of a mother’s Alzheimer’s disease and the evolution of a daughter’s response to the illness,” on May 22. The film’s been described as “a life-affirming exploration of family relations, aging, change, the meaning of memory and love.”

A film titled “The Boy Inside: A Journey Into Autism” will be screened June 12 as part of this year’s “Reel Mind.” Filmmaker Marianne Kaplan followed a year in the life of her 12-year-old son Adam, who has a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome — capturing his desperate attempts to fit in amidst “bullies, insensitive classmates and parents with at-times frayed nerves.”

This year’s “Reel Mind” series concludes with a screening of “Search for Sanity” plus a preview of “Echo of the Past.” The first is a 1954 TV special filmed inside the Hudson River State Hospital, while the latter is a work in progress focusing on the former Rochester State Hospital. Together they reflect “shifting attitudes towards mental illness” during the “mass deinstitutionalization of the first half of the 20th century.”

Too few community supports were in place at the time, leading to large numbers of people with mental illness facing homelessness, unemployment, criminalization and other outcomes we should no longer tolerate. When series like “Reel Mind” help us increase and improve supports for people living with all types of brain disorders, they do us all a great service. Every brain is important, and every person matters.

– Lynn

Note: Explore the works and words of Vincent Van Gogh at the “Van Gogh Alive” exhibit through June 17 at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix

Coming up: Sinews, saguaro and starlight

Madcap musings

Madcap Theaters located in Centerpoint on Mill in Tempe

“Geeks’ Night Out” comes to Tempe this week as the Arizona SCITECH Festival meets “Third Thursdays” in Tempe’s Mill Avenue District — and the fine folks at Madcap Theaters host an Allied Paranormal Investigations team who’ll be “showing the equipment they use in researching potential hauntings.”

MADCAP's mission is providing affordable community-based performance space

Other “Geeks’ Night Out” happenings, taking place at various Tempe locations, feature everything from robotics to astronomy — plus a pop culture trivia competition. Think “Star Wars” vs. “Star Trek.” Folks can dress up like their favorite inventor or don the geek version of business attire for a tech job fair.

Harry Potter meets musical theater at Madcap Theaters in Tempe this month

A little something called “It’s a Musical Showcase” comes to Madcap Theaters for just two shows next weekend. It was conceived and created by a pair of ASU theatre majors, and it features fare you’ll have a hard time finding elsewhere — including a work from “A Very Potter Musical.”

“It’s a Musical Showcase” includes 14 songs, but only the first of two acts is dubbed “family friendly” so parents concerned about such things can opt for having the kids leave at intermission. Featured shows include “Chicago,” “Rent,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Wicked,” “Spring Awakening,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Avenue Q,” “Moulin Rouge” and more.

This view of Madcap's snack bar demonstrates that perception is everything

A digital arts festival called “PLAY” comes to Madcap Theaters next month thanks to UrbanSTEW. The festival “celebrates the union of art and technology” — and this year’s theme is “disability perception.” It’ll feature music, dance, activities and exhibits exploring human limits and abilities. Special guests include Crossing 32nd Street, Dulce Dance Company and ASU’s laptop orchestra.

There's plenty of artwork to enjoy in and around Madcap Theaters in Tempe

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., a professor of animal science at Colorado State University best known to most for her advocacy on behalf of those living with autism, comes to Madcap Theaters in March for an Autism Society of Greater Phoenix event that also features Dianne Craft, M.A., CNHP, of Child Diagnostics in Denver.

Three large rabbit sculptures surround a pond near Madcap Theaters

Grandin is a proponent of neurodiversity, the author of many works (including “Animals Make Us Human” and “Animals in Translation” with co-author Catherine Johnson) and the subject of a semi-biographical film (“Temple Grandin”) starring Claire Danes that was released by HBO Films in 2010.

Mellow Mushroom near Madcap Theaters is full of art ala skateboards

Those who favor venues with diverse “off the beaten path” offerings have a friend in Madcap Theaters. A geeky friend, perhaps. But a friend nonetheless. Learn more about upcoming events, included those noted above, by visiting Madcap Theaters at www.madcaptheaters.com.

– Lynn

Note: Click here for details about the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix 13th Annual Autism/Asperger’s Conference, and here to explore Mellow Mushroom offerings.

Coming up: A trio of Tempe galleries, Hands-on history

“Glee” in 3-D: An affirmation tale

After several seasons of watching “Glee,” a Fox television series about life at a high school boasting both a giddy glee choir and a fierce football team, I was eager to see the “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie” when we got passes to a Tuesday night screening in Scottsdale.

After feeling disappointed many years ago by a live “American Idol” concert in downtown Phoenix (I was mother to a pre-tween at the time), I didn’t expect much going into “Glee 3D.” But the movie, being shown in theaters for just two weeks beginning Aug 12, was surprisingly fun.

I found myself wishing I had the movie’s soundtrack as Lizabeth and I drove a rental car from the airport in Las Vegas to our hotel in Cedar City, Utah where we’re staying during our annual pilgrimage to the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

I expected lively concert tunes, choreography with an aerobics class feel and lots of screaming concert fans. All there. But the  movie also features backstage conversations with cast members. Think Lea Michele sharing Barbra Streisand musings in “Rachel” mode.

The movie is rated PG, perhaps because of a few revealing costumes peppered with things like feathers and other furry stuff I can’t quite name. Prepare for a couple of crotch grabs too, as “Artie” (Kevin McHale) and the gang whip out the gold sequins for a cover of Michael Jackson’s “PYT.”

Still, the concert is good clean fun. Many of the costumes have a flirty 50s vibe, and the shoes—especially those sported by “Kurt” (Chris Colfer) – are a real kick. I was impressed that “Rachel” spent most of her time in silver flats instead of the stilettos sported by much of today’s sophomore class.

The best fashion piece, however, was a grey wool skirt with black piping worn by “Holly Holliday” (Gwyneth Paltrow) – who performs a single song. Still, it was a tiny wanna-be-Warbler, known to many for his You Tube performances, who stole the show. Think preppy blazer and tie falling to the knees.

The vocal talents of lead cast members are well-established, but I didn’t know others would perform sing so well in a concert setting. “Mercedes” (Amber Riley), and plenty of others, rocked the house. And Kleenex was in order when “Kurt” went solo.

A couple of cast members failed to truly shine in the singing department, but consider the source on this one. I can barely breathe and sing at the same time, let alone gyrate for a full 90 minutes.

The choreography builds as the concert goes along, so don’t fret if you find yourself a bit bored with early numbers. I remember being one of those lovely long-haired dancers once, and it’s clear lots of folks in the concert audience do too.

The camera often panned to middle-aged folks enjoying songs first released when they were youth. Sadly, it’s my generation that gave the world Rick Springfield and “Jessie’s Girl.”

There was plenty of swooning in the audience, and the movie theater, when particular cast members did their thing. Think “Brittany” (Heather Morris), who’s more dancer than singer. And “Blaine” (Darren Criss), one of several “Warblers” (a competing glee choir from an all boys prep school) on the television series.

There are plenty of concerts on film, but “Glee 3D” is more than that. It’s an anthem of acceptance. While performing a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” cast members wore white T-shirts with big black letters describing a trait they’ve come to accept. Nose. Four Eyes. Can’t Sing. Likes Boys. Bad Attitude.OCD.

Scenes of concert and crowd are interspersed with snippets of everyday youth discussing differences that present very real challenges. A teen girl with Aspergers syndrome talks of overcoming social anxieties. A gay teen tells the gripping story of his journey from shame to serenity. And a teen of short stature shares her dream of attending prom.

As we waited in line to board an airplane the day after seeing “Glee 3D,” Lizabeth shared that a friend posted something on Facebook about her plans to see a screening that evening. “Don’t judge,” the friend posted on her Facebook page.

Not to worry. Unless, of course, you show up at the theater with a giant red foam finger marked “Glee.”

– Lynn

Note: Don’t mistake the giant on-screen Slushie-fest and rolling credits for the film’s finale. There’s more, so stay seated (unless, of course, you want to get up and dance).

Coming up: “Glee” connections to Broadway, A playful production of “Romeo and Juliet”