Liv­ing for the stage

Ado­les­cent conquers dys­lexia one per­for­mance at a time

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

What does 12-year-old Liam Daw­son of Bay Roberts have in com­mon with Pablo Pi­casso, Whoopie Gold­berg, Thomas Edi­son, Agatha Christie, Win­ston Churchill and Cher?

They all suf­fer(ed) from de­vel­op­men­tal read­ing dis­or­der, more fa­mil­iarly known as dys­lexia.

“I’m in great com­pany,” Daw­son says with a smile.

The read­ing dis­abil­ity oc­curs when the brain im­prop­erly rec­og­nizes and pro­cesses cer­tain sym­bols.

“My dys­lexia doesn’t hold me back from do­ing au­di­tions or pub­lic speak­ing,” he states.

All his world’s a stage

Daw­son thrives on the­atre. Last sum­mer and again this sum­mer, he ap­peared in pro­duc­tions with the New World The­atre Project on the In­deav­our Stage in Cupids. Last year he played first fairy in A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream, and this year, Balt­hazar in The Mer­chant of Venice. The cur­rent sea­son ended last week.

The 10-mem­ber artis­tic com­pany pro­duced two Shake­speare plays, The Mer­chant of Venice and Henry IV Part 1.

Artis­tic di­rec­tor Brad Hod­der of St. John’s

ABOUT LIAM ERIC DAW­SON

• Age — 12 • Birth­place — Car­bon­ear • Home­town — Bay Roberts • Fam­ily — par­ents are Cyn­thia and Pa­trick Daw­son. One sis­ter, An­gela • Pets — two dogs, Lucky and Oreo • Se­lect the­atre in­volve­ment — White Rab­bit in Dis­ney’s Alice in Won­der­land Ju­nior; ac­tor, Steps Through Time, a his­tor­i­cal walk­ing play in Bri­gus; Fritz and The Rat King in The Nutcracker; Young Boy in A Trib­ute to Broad­way

• Hob­bies/ in­ter­ests — col­lect­ing swords and knives, the­atre, cook­ing says the sec­ond sea­son “was a great artis­tic suc­cess,” pro­vid­ing the op­por­tu­nity “to ex­plore classical work in a unique space.”

“I thought it would be good to have the ex­pe­ri­ence with some pro­fes­sion­als,” Daw­son says.

Per­form­ing with well-known ac­tors Andy Jones and Greg Malone was a spe­cial treat for the young man.

“It was a real hon­our to be around ( Jones) and learn from him,” Daw­son notes.

Pre­pared for stage

Be­ing on stage is no great bur­den for Daw­son. His pre­vi­ous the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence ide­ally pre­pared him.

“I feel like I’m do­ing a job,” he says. “Af­ter the open­ing show, you don’t get ner­vous.”

He also says he en­joys “play­ing off the crowd.”

Hod­der refers to Daw­son as “an old soul who just fits in per­fectly. Watch­ing him de­velop as an artist is per­son­ally very, very grat­i­fy­ing.”

The­atre makes big de­mands on ac­tors, in­clud­ing 12-hour prac­tices that run six daysa-week for three weeks at a time.

Daw­son ad­mits the first day he reads a play is the hard­est. Dys­lexia af­fects dif­fer­ent peo­ple in dif­fer­ent ways.

Some words — fore­s­porrer, one who rides be­fore, for ex­am­ple — con­fuse him. So he deals with his dis­or­der by re­quest­ing the script be­fore­hand. He also finds that read­ing cook­books helps him un­der­stand words and mea­sure­ments. And, he’s a good lis­tener.

Pos­i­tive spin

Daw­son’s mother, Cyn­thia, says she and her hus­band, Pa­trick, “never put a neg­a­tive spin on what (Liam) has be­cause ev­ery­body has some­thing. It could be a med­i­cal con­di­tion ... so you have to learn to fit it into your life, which he has done.”

Daw­son is un­apolo­getic about his fu­ture

Liam Daw­son of Bay Roberts with his two pets, Lucky and Oreo.

am­bi­tions.

In the short-term, he’s au­di­tioned for The Grand Se­duc­tion, a film that ac­tor and fun­ny­man Robin Wil­liams may be film­ing in the prov­ince.

He’s au­di­tion­ing for the voice of a sheep­dog in a TV show called Mickey.

His long-term am­bi­tion is no less am­bi­tious: “per­form­ing on Broad­way in New York City.” In case any­one doubts his as­pi­ra­tion, he adds, “I’m se­ri­ous. I want to play The Phan­tom (of the Opera) on Broad­way in New York City.”

Mean­while, he en­cour­ages other would-be ac­tors be to “ have more con­fi­dence.”

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