August 22, 2018
I really enjoyed working on this research project with my mentor, Doctor Catalina Florescu. I was honored when she asked me to do it with her at the end of the fall semester of 2017. Dr. Florescu was my professor then, for the second semester in a row. I really liked both of the classes that I was in with her and loved having her as a professor. This project was great for me to work on because for our research I read to two plays, Ella Carmen Greenhill’s Plastic Figurines and Dear Evan Hansen written by Stephen Levenson with music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, both of which I could relate to in one way or another.
Plastic Figurines was about 18-year-old Michael and his older sister Rose dealing with their mother’s cancer and her eventual death. Michael has Asperger’s Syndrome. This makes the play all the more complicated because Rose now has to give up her own life to care for her brother. After their mother is gone, it seems as if she is the only family member left to do the job. She loves her brother but she also resents having to give up her life to look after him, which is not surprising. I know based off my own parents that taking care of and raising a kid with special needs is rewarding but challenging. Although I don’t have Asperger’s like Michael, I have my own struggles and my parents have needed to guide me throughout my life. I’m sure It’s never easy to watch your child struggle. Like Rose, my parents had to put some of their lives on hold to make sure I was successful. I am now in college and will graduate with a degree in just a couple short years. This is a wonderful accomplishment, something I never thought would happen when I was little. However, getting to where I am today wasn’t an easy ride. I had to work twice as hard as the average kid to get here and my parents helped with a lot of that. I think my point here is that although Michael and I have different diagnosis I can recognize some of myself in him and understand his struggles and frustrations. I can also understand Rose’s struggles and frustrations because I know a little about what it’s been like for my own sister to grow up with me. So why don’t we have these kind of topics in plays more! Ones that people like me can relate to even if we don’t have exactly the same diagnosis.
Dear Evan Hansen, a musical, with music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, written by Stephen Levenson, also covers a topic I can really relate to and feel is not represented in the theater world enough. This is anxiety disorders, both social and general. I was diagnosed with OCD at a pretty early stage in my life. OCD affects many parts of me and it can be a real battle to fight against it. It can kind of make life suck sometimes. Evan Hansen, the main character of Dear Evan Hansen, struggles with anxiety similar to mine. He is very awkward socially. I’m not awkward socially but I can struggle with socialisation, especially amongst peer groups of larger quantities that I don’t know on a deep level. Evan also struggles with confidence in himself which is another thing I can relate to. I am very proud of all my accomplishments and like myself as a person for the most part. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not hard on myself and get frustrated easily when I might not be able to do something right. I tend to compare myself to others and feel insecure if I think they are better at something than me.
When I worked with Catalina in the two classes, I felt like she saw me the way I wanted to be seen. A girl who needed a little extra accommodations in class but could also keep up with the class and be treated like a normal student. I think it’s fitting that she asked me to help her with a project that would promote more awareness of disability at Pace. I had seen The Curious Incident of the Dog At Night when I was out on Broadway, but did not really know that any other plays about people with special needs existed until I read Plastic Figurines. Up until I first saw then read Dear Evan Hansen, I only knew Next To Normal touched upon anxiety disorders. I learned this summer that there are more plays that represent these kind of things then I originally thought but there could still be much, much more.