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Mixed Blood Theatre brings "Theory of Mind" to Perham

Skyler Nowinski and Brittany Bradford perform in Mixed Blood Theatre's production of "Theory of Mind." Photo by Ashley Bergen.

The Perham audience watching Minneapolis's Mixed Blood Theatre production of "Theory of Mind," last Friday night saw a familiar story in many ways.

Boy meets girl. Boy thinks girl is cute. Boy asks girl out on a date.

In this production, things aren't so simple for the main characters. The boy, in this case, is Bill Gates, a 16-year-old boy going out for the first time with girl, Hilo. While it isn't easy for most teenagers on their first date, it's even more difficult for Bill.

Bill has Asperger's syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects his ability to socialize and communicate with others. Doctors group Asperger's with other conditions called autistic spectrum disorders. These involve problems with social skills and communication.

The play is full of humor and heart as the audience watches Bill, played by Houston native Skyler Nowinski, and his long-winded monologues, a trait of people with Asperger's.

Other traits include showing an intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects; appearing not to understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others' feelings; speaking in a voice that is monotonous, rigid or unusually fast; and moving clumsily, with poor coordination.

During the show, Bill takes Hilo to a concert and hits a squirrel on the way. Hilo, an animal lover, demands he pull over to check on the animal. This leads to a conversation about life, death, God and humanity.

"People aren't perfect," Hilo tells Bill.

"They're like 87 percent perfect," he replies. "They don't even get an A."

As the night progresses, Bill tries to express affection for Hilo, but because of his disorder it isn't easy.

After the show, the cast took questions from the audience and answered questions in character. Nowinski, as Bill, explained that awareness about people on the autism spectrum is growing.

"We're part of a new civil rights movement," he said. We are here. We are weird. Get used to it."

Mixed Blood Theatre presented "Theory of Mind" at the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum, jointly sponsored by the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center and the ITOW Museum of Perham.

The play, written by Ken LaZebnik and directed by Jack Reuler, also featured Brittany Bradford as Nilo and Warren C. Bowles as a police officer, parking lot attendant, and box office manager.

"Theory of Mind" is one of five shows that Mixed Blood Theatre will tour in the 2010-11 season. Mixed Blood promotes pluralism throughout Minnesota and the upper Midwest with shows that portray role models of color and with disabilities, allowing those with differences to see them reflected on stage.

The production in Perham was sponsored by the NY Mills Regional Cultural Center, the ITOW Veterans Museum, the McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Arts and Culture Legacy Amendment and by members of the NY Mills Regional Cultural Center.