A multi-media stage work exploring autism
“im sad because cant tallk yyet … you must help me to talk” ~ Birger Sellin
Created by the new collective Tones of Voice, besidemyselfworld is a multi-disciplinary solo performance work based on the autobiographical writings of the German autistic mute teenager, Birger Sellin. besidemyselfworld can be performed in German or English. It uses an emotionally powerful radiophonic soundtrack along with evocative light and imagery to convey the story of a young autistic man reaching out to the world through the once-impermeable walls of his autism.
A California study in 2009 found a seven to eight-fold increase in the number of children born with autism since 1990, and the trend shows no sign of abating. Many recent articles have referred to “the epidemic of autism” affecting our world. But while the Hollywood depiction of autism focuses on high-achieving autistic people such as Temple Grandin and Kim Peek (Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man), most people diagnosed with the disorder have much more difficulty communicating.
Like many autistics, Birger Sellin experienced an overload of sensory information in aspects of daily life that would lead to extreme anxiety and confusion, and shut down his ability to speak and participate in the world. By the time he was a teenager, Sellin was virtually locked away in a personal exile. He could scream, he could mutter nonsense, but he could not articulate what he was feeling. Finally, at the age of 17, by learning the technique of facilitated communication, typing into a computer with his arm supported by his mother, he found a way to express his feelings in words.
besidemyselfworld is adapted by Tones of Voice members Mark Cassidy (also of Threshold Theatre) and Darren Copeland (also of New Adventures in Sound Art) from Sellin’s groundbreaking book Ich will kein Inmich mehr sein (i dont want to be inside me anymore). Stuttgart actor, Sebastian Schäfer, plays the narrator/technician who seeks to understand autism and the autistic element that exists in the creative personality. Media artists, Katie Kehoe and Peter O’Neill, equip Schäfer with a repertoire of portable multi-media devices to transform both theatrical and everyday environments into highly immersive worlds of sound, light, and abstract imagery.
The production marks the launching of Tones of Voice, a new company created by Copeland and Cassidy to present and develop stage and media works which merge sound and spoken word in innovative ways. Tones of Voice aims to reach an international audience by producing touring performances, digital media and online presentations.