On September 24th, Youth Play Institute alum Jonathan Abreu gave the following speech at HartBeat’s 10th Anniversary Celebration.
One day I was called in to the nurses office at Hartford High. One of the practitioners named Ruth asked me, “Jonathan, what are your plans after you graduate?” My response was “Ruth, I want to be become an actor.” Then she pulled out a small flier from her cabinet for HartBeat’s Youth Play Institute.
She asked me to go audition, however, dealing with Asperger Syndrome I was dead against it. Yeah I want to become an actor, but I wasn’t sure about auditioning for a role so early. So I told Ruth that I am not sure about this, she asked me why and I stated my reason was my shyness and how I can’t overcome it and my Asperger Syndrome. So she took my hand and escorted me to the auditioning room. The whole time we were walking, I wanted to leave. Ruth opened the door and there I saw Cindy. She took Cindy aside and told her about me.
While Cindy was putting all of the potential actors through obstacles, my hands were shaking and sweaty. I was nervous, I wanted to go home! So I told Cindy that I needed to go. When I walked home, I felt a sense of relief because I wasn’t nervous anymore, but I felt really bad. I kept doubting myself saying “I can’t do this”, “I can’t do this.” I thought the whole thing was behind me. However, that night the house phone rings. It was Cindy, right before I left the auditions, she gave me other options that I could do, so I choose to become a sound producer.
I was shocked that she wanted me to come by, as I wasn’t expecting a phone call because of my early departure from the audition. When I arrived at the first class, I met the crew, I saw some new faces and some faces I saw during the audition. I was just sitting and minding my own business, not interacting with anyone. Then Cindy and Nora led us through several “games” that would help us learn to act.
I have to admit, I really didn’t like it at all. I was nervous that I had to interact with anybody. The next time we all met, everything began to change. I started liking the games we played, I began to understand about acting and for the first time I started to interact with kids around my age. From this time forward, I always wanted to perform first. Before YPI I would have never done that. I began to like acting and showing up all the time. When it came down to script writing, I seemed to really like it. I wrote some rough drafts that I believed could help our play. When I revealed them to Cindy, I was told that it had to be accepted by group. I was like damn, I am not sure anyone would like them! After a fast-read, the group really liked my scenes and wanted them to be in the play. I was happy that they liked my material and that it would be performed.
When it was opening night, my heart was jumping. Backstage, the group and I came together and threw our hands up in the air. When it was time to perform, I was shaking like crazy, I was looking out to see how the first scene was going, while my friend Jessica was right next to me. I told her “We Can Do This!”
The lights goes off, its now scene two. As the lights goes up, I was so scared but the adrenalin started to kick in. After the show was over, I felt extremely proud of myself, I felt that I could do anything that I set my mind too. I was just happy. I was being complimented from left to right. My mom really liked it and so did my nephews. I went home happy and proud of myself. The next day was the last time that the group would see each other. We watched our performance and ate cake, we were laughing at each other and ourselves. We became a strong family. When I left, I knew that this is what I want to do. Never again will I say, “I Can’t Do This!” because the impossible is always possible, “We Can Do This!”
Without you, we will not be able to continue our work in 2012. We can tell our youth programs are having a huge effect, Jonathan’s story is just one example. Please give today so more students like Jonathan have a chance to find their confident voice through theater.