Problematic Representation is Still Problematic, Even When You Cast Autistic Actors in the Problematic Roles

Ok, so Backstage has a listing right now for a casting call for neurodivergent talent. Great, right? That’s exactly what we want is more accurate representation! This should be a good thing, right?

Company

Last Resort Productions

Gabby Harrison, writer-dir.

Production Description

Casting "Radio Static," for two actors for a virtual reading of a play that chronicles the lives and world of six teenagers/young adults living in an inpatient center for autistic individuals.
Screenshot of backstage.com

Company

Last Resort Productions

Gabby Harrison, writer-dir.

Production Description

Casting “Radio Static,” for two actors for a virtual reading of a play that chronicles the lives and world of six teenagers/young adults living in an inpatient center for autistic individuals.


Great, right? So you might wonder why I’m ranting.

Well for starters, it’s an unpaid gig.

And it gets worse once you get to the details of what they’re looking for, and the language they’re using to describe it….

They’re looking for two actors. First role listed is:

Gabe (lead male, 12-16) is an introverted, shy 15 year old autistic boy. nonverbal, although he often mimics other’s speech. has a romantic (kissing only) relationship with Ellie; must actually be neurodiverse.

Gabe, (lead, male 12-16)is an introverted, shy 15 year old autistic boy. nonverbal, although he often mimics other's speech. has a romantic (kissing only) relationship with Ellie; must actually be neurodiverse. Open to all ethnicities.
Screenshot of backstage.com

If you’re still wondering why I’m mad, I’m not surprised. Other than using “nonverbal” rather than “non-speaking” they’re doing pretty well here.


The second actor they’re looking for is to fill the role of:

Ellie (female lead 8-12) a curious, excitable ten year old autistic girl. loves music, and is mature for her age; has a romantic (kissing only) relationship with Gabe; must actually be neurodiverse.

Ellie (female lead 8-12)a curious, excitable ten year old autistic girl. loves music, and is mature for her age; has a romantic (kissing only) relationship with Gabe; must actually be neurodiverse. Open to all ethnicities.
Screenshot of backstage.com

And that’s where they lost me. They’re looking for neurodivergent actors to fill roles in a “production” (I’m using that term rather loosely, here) that is inherently problematic. Do I really have to explain what’s wrong here??

A ten year old girl in a “romantic relationship” with a teenager isn’t “mature for her age.”

She’s being groomed for abuse.


So not only do we have that issue in the description of the script, we’ve got the entire plot line to begin with! How many Autistic protagonists do we actually need that have no idea about social norms and right from wrong? (Zero is the Magic Number there, and we’ve already got several.)


I’m currently trying to find accurate contact info so I can reach out to the writer/director as well as the production company that’s listed as set to stream this production. As of yet I have not had any direct contact. I would love to hear from someone who can clear this up. Maybe I could read the full script or get a more detailed synopsis. I’m good with Cliff’s Notes.

From the details I’ve got, this isn’t a production I can get behind, no matter how many Autistic actors they get to participate.

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