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Grade Schooler With Asperger's Syndrome is Main Character in NCT's MOCKINGBIRD

Grade Schooler With Asperger's Syndrome is Main Character in NCT's MOCKINGBIRD
Eric D. Pasto-Crosby and Rebecca Keeshin star in Nashville Children's
Theatre's Mockingbird, opening Thursday, March 1.

-Photo by Michael Scott Evans

Nashville Children's Theatre, the nation's oldest professional theatre for young audiences will perform Mockingbird from March 1-18. Based on the award-winning book, Mockingbird provides a look at how a parent and his daughter with Asperger's syndrome cope with a tragic loss due to a school shooting.

"So often in TYA we tell stories that are 'Once upon a time,' but in this particular play we're talking about right now," says Ernie Nolan, executive director of NCT, who directs Mockingbird. "It's astonishing to think that we are literally responding to what is going on in schools across the country right now. And we are providing young people with a discussion starter for what goes on in their lives and their personal journey. What I love about this play is that the main character has obstacles from the get-go, and we're following her as she learns what it means to literally discover empathy. Beyond that, our audiences will sit in the theater and have their own empathetic journey with this play."

In Caitlin's world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad, and anything in between is confusing. That's the stuff Caitlin's older brother, Devon, had always explained. But now Devon is dead, and she's all on her own. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger's syndrome, she doesn't know how. When she reads the definition of "closure" in the dictionary, she realizes that is what she and her father need. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white--the world is full of colors--messy and beautiful. Caitlin's thought processes, including her own unique brand of logic, are the star of this moving production.

NCT's cast includes Rebecca Keeshin, Eric D. Pasto-Crosby, Patricia Taber, ej Taylor, Mikey Russo, Everett Tarlton, Sejal Mehta, Latrisha Talley and Stephen Bredfeldt. Keeshin, Taylor, Russo, Tarlton, Mehta and Bredfelt are making their NCT debuts in Mockingbird.

Adapted for the stage by Julie Jensen, Mockingbird was based on the National Book Award-winning novel of the same name by Kathryn Erskine.

Compelled to write the novel by the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, Erskine developed a main character named Caitlin with Asperger's syndrome, a condition her daughter also has, although the character of Caitlin is not based on her daughter.

"A few of the experiences are similar," says Erskine, "but mostly I did a lot of research - reading, going to workshops, talking to people affected by Asperger's - because I wanted to make the story as universal as possible. Every kid is different, just like every kid with Asperger's is different, although there are certainly traits that are similar and are used to define the condition, such as (over)reactions to noise or touch, lack of eye contact, difficulty in social situations, etc."

Caitlin, Mockingbird's main character, is an artist who draws throughout the story. The art for her drawings has been created by Sarah E. Vaughn, a Nashville artist on the autism spectrum. A self-taught artist specializing in tromp l'oeil drawings, Vaughn's unique and highly detailed work is becoming increasingly recognized and is sought after both nationally and internationally.

Scenic design and sound design for NCT's Mockingbird have been created by two designers who are new to NCT, but whose resumes boast Broadway credits. Court Watson's scenic design work has been seen in productions around the world, including Beijing, China, Magdeburg, Germany and Amstetten, Austria. His Broadway credits include Guys & Dolls, Coast of Utopia, Cry-Baby, South Pacific, Grease!, Little Women, and High Fidelity. Broadway credits for Mockingbird sound designer Joanna Lynne Staub include Angels in America, The Color Purple, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway. Lighting design is by NCT's resident lighting designer Scott Leathers and costume design by NCT's resident costume designer Patricia Taber. Projection design by is Maranda DeBusk, and Illustration art by Sarah E. Vaughn.

Opening night for Mockingbird is Thursday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. Weekend performances are at 2 p.m., Saturday, March 3 - Sunday, March 18. (No performance on Sunday, March 4.)

Tickets are available by phone at (615) 252-4675 or online at All performances take place at The Martin Center for Nashville Children's Theatre at 25 Middleton Street, in Nashville's SoBro neighborhood.

ABOUT NASHVILLE CHILDREN'S THEATRE Founded in 1931 by the Junior League of Nashville, Nashville Children's Theatre is the oldest professional children's theatre in the United States. A national leader in theatre arts and education programs for young people, NCT was ranked by TIME Magazine as one of the top five children's theatre's in the country. Lead funding for NCT's programs is provided by Metro Nashville Arts Commission, Tennessee Arts Commission, The Shubert Foundation, The Memorial Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. For more information visit

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis