People on the Autism Spectrum are our brothers, fathers, sisters, and mothers. Recently integrated into the public sphere, persons on the spectrum present us with a new and broader understanding of what is ‘normal’ or typical. Uncommon Sense is a project rooted in Iowa, about Iowa families, and communities affected by life on the spectrum. In preparation for a national tour, Uncommon Sense premiered January 21, 2017 at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This collaboration of almost five years was commisioned by Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, University of Northern Iowa, and originally developed and co-produced by Tectonic Theater Project, New York, NY, and Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.
Under the artistic direction of Moisés Kaufman, recipient of the 2015 National Medal of Arts and co-founder of Tectonic Theater Project, Uncommon Sense introduces patrons to unique members of our Iowa family and does so with a sense of humor, love, and understanding. Countless hours were spent interviewing citizens of the Hawkeye State for the development of the production. As a result, many of the characters and their stories are composities of various Iowan experiences. Masterfully written and directed by Andy Paris and Anushka Paris Carter to promote compassion and acceptance, audience members can look forward to observing famililar environments as the cast invites them down the aisles of Hy-Vee and straight into their hearts.
From conception to final product, Uncommon Sense has been a transformative process for a multitude of people and communities. At an academic level, the partnership between the University of Northern Iowa Theatre Department and Tectonic Theater Project was critical. The intensive devising workshops that resulted from this collaboration strengthened the education of students by providing them with an interactive learning opportunity. Moreover, learning alongside instructors from a company dedicated to social justice narratives significantly enhanced students' appreciation and understanding of purposeful art.
Uncommon Sense is particularly valuable for its capacity to affect a vast audience. While the piece is devoted to elevating public awareness of neurodiversity through storytelling and creating a space dedicated to enhancing solidarity within the community, those with little to no familiarity with autism are invited to explore various storylines. With actors both on and off the spectrum, this play welcomes the world into Iowa's living rooms, showcasing the intimacy of Midwestern values, and casting a spotlight on the lives of individuals that too often find themselves nearly invisible in the arts.