Dallas — Audacity Theatre Lab's fourth Dallas Solo Fest returns, after taking a break in 2017. The event runs June 6-10 in the smaller studio space at the Dallas Children's Theater. Look for interviews with each performer, and reviews of each show, coming on TheaterJones.
Here's one with Louisville, KY-based Cody Clark, whose A Different Way of Thinking opens the festival at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 6. It is also performed at 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 8; and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9.
Cody Clark, who was diagnosed with autism at 15 months of age, discovered magic at a young age. Through stage magic and story, sleight-of-hand and journey of mind, Cody will show you the world through his eyes, and maybe you’ll find that his way of thinking isn’t all that different from yours.
Tell me about your discovery of magic? What tricks turned you onto it?
I always enjoyed watching the magic shows at the Kentucky State Fair, but I never thought it was something I could do too until I saw the Bart Rockett magic show in Gulf Shores, Ala., during a family vacation in 2004. Bart called me up on stage to participate in a few routines, including allowing me to push the blade down in his version of "Sawing a Lady in Half." All the positive attention I got from being on stage really spoke to me since I always had the "show-biz bug," but never found a talent I was good at until that day. So I bought the magic kit he was selling, learned those routines when I got home, and it all blossomed from there.
How did magic help with your realization of autism?
I was diagnosed with autism at 15 months old and immediately placed into therapies at the University of Louisville Autism Treatment Center. While not magic in particular, the performing arts were a big part of my therapies. There were improv-based social games, puppet play, and fine arts used to increase my motor skills and social skills. That's probably why I've always wanted to be in the arts when I grew up and after the aforementioned magic show experience, magic became my "autistic obsession." Autistics tend to focus most of their energies on one or two chosen subjects which they become experts in, often make their livings in, and which serve as a way for autistics to relate to a world that often feels out of place for them. Getting involved in magic gave me friendships, ways to improve my motor and social skills, and ways for me to figure out what autism means for me as an adult.
How did this show come together? How long did it take, and how many times have you performed it for audiences?
I've been doing magic for 12 years. The first few years I took a comedy magic approach that, while my stage presence was always praised, the routines themselves were stock magic routines. That started to backfire the older I got, leading to my "The Magic of Cody Clark" show getting rejected by Louisville's Slant Culture Theatre Festival in 2013. The festival producer told me that the generic nature of my show at the time was the "make or break" issue and that she'd love to see me write an original magic show with a beginning to end narrative for next years festival. So I decided to write my show about the most unique thing about me: my autism. I'd start with my birth, include my initial diagnosis, my challenges throughout schooling, and end with my graduation from the University of Louisville. It took about three months to write the first draft and it was accepted in the 2014 Slant Culture Theatre Festival! I workshopped it at the University of Louisville Theatre Department before its premiere, made some changes based on the feedback I received, and then premiered it in the festival and it was a hit! I've since performed it at 10 fringe festivals, the 2018 SaraSolo Fest, and many small theatres, middle/high schools, and autism centers.
What are the challenges of performing a solo show?
Flying with odd-looking magic props means I'm almost always pulled to the side by TSA. Also, magic shows very much operate under Murphy's Law, so there are times I'll have to use my improv skills and magic knowledge base to work my way out of a mistake. And promoting your show, while it's a fun challenge, it's always a hard one. Fortunately, autism organizations in the DFW metroplex such as My Possibilities and the NonPariel Institute have been a big help for me here.
What are you looking forward to in Dallas?
I LOVE BBQ, so I'm looking forward to trying some Texas-style BBQ places while I'm here. I'm also a theme park enthusiast, so I hope to go to Six Flags Over Texas. And a friend of mine I met when I had the privilege of being in the Monkey Room at Penn and Teller in Las Vegas lives in-between Dallas and San Antonio and being a skydiver, will be taking me skydiving for the first time.
» You can learn more about all six shows and see the schedule here.