Winner of a Green Room Award for best writing in a cabaret and a Perth Fringe weekly award for best theatre, Sophie Smyth and Ryan Smedley’s The Aspie Hour has been performed everywhere from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to the Sydney Festival, earning a string of positive reviews along the way.
Described as honest and unapologetic, as well as funny, it sees the two explore their experiences with Asperger’s and navigate the neurotypical world through their shared love of musical theatre.
Describe your Adelaide Fringe show in 10 words or less?
Theatrical Aspies do musical cabaret!
What inspired you to create The Aspie Hour?
Sophie: The show was born during our studies at Federation University’s Arts Academy [in Victoria]. As part of our third-year music-theatre degree we were required to write and perform our own 10-minute cabaret shows about our lives. Though Ryan and I were a year apart, we both wrote about our Asperger’s diagnosis.
Once we graduated, our director, Fiona Scott-Norman, suggested we should collaborate together and create a full-length show. And that’s what we did!
Our stories come from very personal experiences, so we’re very fortunate it has been received so well by audiences and even picked up a few awards.
What are some of the real-life experiences you each share during the performance?
Ryan: I speak about a trip I took to New York City (remember travel!?) and how my Asperger’s affected that trip. In particular, I had a memorable time in the Central Park snow with a stranger. I wonder how he’s doing?
Sophie: One of my favourite parts of the show is when I share some of the experiences I’ve had dating – and I have many more that didn’t make the cut! I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ve had more than a few occasions where misreading social cues and flirtation signs has turned out to be quite hilarious.
Sophie, why did you decide to step into Dorothy’s sparkly red shoes to explore your journey?
We noticed in the development of the show that there were a lot of parallels between The Wizard of Oz and my own life: a young girl thrust alone into a technicolor world that she doesn’t understand with her only companion a little black dog. It’s also sometimes easier for me to escape into a charactered version of myself – something known within the autism community as masking. Plus the dress is real pretty!
What is one misconception about Asperger’s syndrome that you hope to debunk?
Sophie: That we’re not funny – I really hope we can prove that wrong!
Why should audiences come to see the show at Adelaide Fringe?
Sophie: So often autistic people are misrepresented in media – our stories are often written and performed by people outside the disabled community. But The Aspie Hour is written and performed by two autistic people; it’s our stories the way we want to tell them, and we’re so fortunate to have a platform to do so. And we promise you don’t need to love musicals to enjoy it!
Ryan: On or off the spectrum, The Aspie Hour astounds and delights with the unique crossover of musical theatre and Asperger’s syndrome!
You both boast an impressive ability to recall obscure musical theatre facts. What is one strange but true thing most people don’t know?
Sophie: One of my favourite shows, Hamilton, has 20,520 words (I promise I didn’t just Google that). I probably know more about America’s first treasury secretary than Australian politics.
Ryan: The lead actor of the original Broadway production of Merrily We Roll Along, James Weissenbach, was fired three weeks into preview performances at the Alvin Theatre in 1981. The choreographer was fired one week later. Yeah, I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise the show closed after 16 official performances.
The Aspie Hour will be presented in the Spiegeltent in the Garden of Unearthly Delights from March 8-13.
Read more Adelaide Fringe reviews and previews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.