“Weird Al” Scores Big with PACT Friends!

IMG_7893 copy copyGuest blogger Jovyn Anderson is a PACT participant who recently organized a special event for friends he met at his Improv Workshop this past year. Here is Jovyn’s post about the challenges he faced and the fun everyone had at a recent “Weird Al” Yankovic Concert. This was the only summer concert open to all ages during racing season at Del Mar Race Track.

Planning for the “Weird Al” Concert 
When I went to the “Weird Al” Yankovic Concert on August 28 at the Del Mar Race Track, I was concerned that no one I had asked to go would show up. I had invited my friends from my PACT Improv workshop and knew they wanted to come. However, I was worried that I might have made some mistake while organizing this “event” and that everyone would end up going to the wrong place at the wrong time and it would be my fault. Even after all the calls I made and emails I sent to ensure this would work, I still could not help but feel anxious. Being a very logical thinker, I knew my fears had no basis in reality but that didn’t stop me from worrying. I had never been part of a big social gathering like this before, let alone organized one.

I joined the PACT Improv group over a year ago because my mother was insisting that since I was (and still am) homeschooled, I didn’t get to talk to other teens, and because of this had no friends my own age. I was nervous to join at then too, but I found everyone very kind and welcoming.  I have had a lot of fun talking to others on the same “wavelength” as me, as well as taking part in the Improv workshop activities. Still, I hadn’t gotten to really hang out with most of people there outside of the workshop and was nervous about asking them. With the help of my mother, as well as Miss Kathryn (Kathryn Campion, PACT’s executive director), I was able to announce the “Weird Al” Concert during a class. Nearly everyone showed interest and I ended up getting many of their phone numbers and later their email addresses so we could communicate on where and when to meet up. And now here I was entering the Del Mar Fairgrounds alongside my father, mother and two younger brothers.

Jovyn and friends at Weird Al Concert
Jovyn (back row, third from right) and friends at the “Weird Al” Concert

To my surprise and relief, several of my friends had already shown up by the time I got there (I was a bit late because someone had misplaced my dad’s car keys). Alex, Ethan B., and Shane were already there sitting on a row of benches outside the building that led to the bleachers for the horse races. The concert didn’t start until after the last race soRead more

we had plenty of time to talk. Soon after, Jacob, who was the first person I had befriended at PACT, and Miss Sandy (Sandy Redmon, PACT’s Artistic and Workshop Director) showed up, along with his dad and sister. After that, Chris arrived, with whom my family and I had seen a movie just weeks before. Next Michael and Kayla came. They were newer than most of us at PACT, but we quickly became friends and I even ran into them once at the beach. Lastly, my other good friend Ethan H. arrived with his mom and our group was complete- well, almost. Unfortunately, two people were busy that day and could not make it, and another wanted to come but something happened with the emails and he never got the information. I was sad they couldn’t make it but was happy to hang out with those who did.

I was sure to talk to everyone (without interrupting their own conversations or talking  too much in a conversation). I talked to Chris about Dragon Ball Z and Doctor Who; I contemplated with Alex, Jacob, Ethan B., and my dad about what to do in a zombie outbreak, Sharknado, etc.; talked to Kayla about the cartoon we both watch called Gravity Falls; and talked with Michael about photography. We all had plenty of time for this because the concert didn’t begin until after 7:00 p.m., and most of us had arrived around 4:30 p.m. Alex and I even came up with a new activity the group could do at PACT’s next session. It was great getting to talk to people my own age and be in a group, and everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves too. But the best part was easily the concert.

“Weird Al” Rocks the Stage!
“Weird Al” Yankovic is a master parody artist.  He has been writing and performing  parody songs since the 1970s, and I think most of them were even better than the originals.  Of course, I was excited to get to see him performing live, although many of my friends had not heard many of his songs. We all went out to the concert area  as the last race was ending (as we did so, Jacob correctly predicted that the horse wearing the pink would win and joked that he wished he had bet on it). There was a huge crowd, but luckily we got a good spot to see the stage from. Normally I would be nervous and overwhelmed by the loudness and crowdedness of it all, but as I stood amid the masses of people, I found, to my surprise, that I was too happy and exited to feel that way. Soon we heard music playing and suddenly saw “Weird Al” appear on the gigantic screen overhanging the stage, walking down a street and singing his version of “Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”

It took us all a moment to realize that not only was this video being filmed live, but the location where it was being filmed was the sidewalk right on the other side of the fence encircling the stage and crowd.  A minute later “Weird Al” was walking right through the audience andRead more

up to the stage where he finished “Tacky” and then began playing polka versions of the most popular pop songs of today. Between each song, clips from “Weird Al’s” past on television and the internet played, and they were hilarious. He played many of his newer songs such as “Foil,” “Lame Claim to Fame,” “Inactive,” “(I’m so) Handy,” “First World Problems,” and “Word Crimes,” as well as some of his older hits like “Fat,” parodying Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” in which he wears a fat suit and sings about the joys of being fat. He also performed “Smells like Nirvana,” a parody of Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit,” in which he sings about how hard it is to understand the words in their songs. He also sang slower, more dramatic remixes of his most famous songs like “Eat It,” “I Lost on Jeopardy,” and “Like a Surgeon.”

I was dancing and cheering as loud as anyone else, and I looked around to see that everyone else in my group was loving the concert, too. “Weird Al” finished up the night by singing two more of his most famous hits, this time in a traditional fashion; he sang “White and Nerdy” and “Amish Paradise,” which also happened to be my favorites.

As he left the stage, he wished everyone in the crowd a good night, but as the lights went out, everyone began chanting for more. After several minutes, however, the chanting died down, and all was silent … when suddenly, the lights came back on and “Weird Al” and his band were back on stage, now wearing Jedi robes. A bunch of Stormtroopers and Darth Vader had also come up with them.

We expected him to sing one of his Star Wars-themed songs but were surprised when he started singing “We All Have Cell Phones, So Come On, Let’s Get Real,” instead (it was an in-joke). He followed up with “The Saga Begins,” a song recounting the events of The Phantom Menace to the tune of “American Pie,” and, as a finale, he sang “Yoda,” about the Jedi of the same name, to the tune of “Lola” by the Kinks.

I had such a great time at the concert, but had just as much fun getting to talk with my friends. I hope that our group can have more meetings outside of Improv as well, since I no longer feel the anxiety about it like I did before the concert. I asked them all what they thought of the concert at our PACT Improv workshop the next day. They all said that they loved it and enjoyed hanging out together.

PACT has been so awesome and I thank Miss Kathryn and Miss Sandy for all I’ve learned there. I look forward to the start of the fall session of Improv in a few weeks.

“Weird AL” on Youtube
You can find many of “Weird Al’s” music videos on Youtube. Here are a few you might enjoy.

“Weird Al’s” parody of “Tacky”

“Weird Al” performs “Yoda”  alongside a young girl with autism

Farzin Fallah – Mountain Climbing in Bolivia

DSC03529thumbnail2_FarzinFallahSecond in a series of posts by San Diego resident Farzin Fallah chronicling his preparation and training for climbing Nepal’s Cho Oyu Mountain in Fall 2016 to raise funds for Autism awareness. Farzin is the father of a teenager with Asperger’s, and PACT will be one of the beneficiaries of this project.   


Preparing for Next Year in Nepal

As preparation for my Cho Oyu climb in Nepal next year, I spent 3 weeks in the Cordillera Real mountain range in Bolivia during May.  Cordillera Real is part of the Andes chain of mountains and contains beautiful 5,000-6,000 meter (18,000 to 21,000 feet) peaks. The main objective of this trip was to climb Illiampu, a 21,000-foot peak, which is the most difficult mountain to climb in Bolivia.

I began the trip by acclimatizing with a small 17,500 feet peak that was then followed by Condoriri at 18,500 feet.  Condoriri is one of the most beautiful peaks in the world.  DSC03451_FarzinFallahAfter a rest day in La Paz, my guide and I set off on a 5-day expedition to summit Illiampu. Although the weather was not typical for that time of the year, we were still able to successfully summit Illiampu.  As a bonus, I had time to attempt the west face to Potosi; at 20,000 feet, it is the largest ice face in Bolivia.  Unfortunately, due to poor unconsolidated snow conditions, we had to retreat to base camp. 

DSC03432_FarzinFallahPresently, I am continuing my training and preparation for Cho Oyu.  This October I will participate in the Seal Fit Kokoro Challenge in North County. It’s the civilian version of the Navy Seal’s Hell Week! 

Farzin Fallah – Climbing for Autism

DSC03529thumbnail2_FarzinFallahFirst in a series of posts by San Diego resident Farzin Fallah chronicling his preparation and training for climbing Nepal’s Cho Oyu Mountain in Fall 2016 to raise funds for Autism awareness. Farzin is the father of a teenager with Asperger’s, and PACT will be one of the beneficiaries of this project.  

My son, Matthew, was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 2. From that point on his life was a major struggle to “catch up” and learn what is basically instinctual for neuro-typical kids. He struggled to learn how to speak in sentences, keep his balance, walk on grass, eat foods of different textures, and a myriad of other activities that require no thought for a typical child. The struggles continued as he grew, and the complexity of human interactions became one of the biggest challenges in his life. He began the process of learning the nuances of human relationships that we take for granted: keeping a proper distance when speaking with someone, looking them in the eye, listening without interrupting, etc. He has even had to learn about a sense of humor. His struggle continues and will continue. 

Matthew has been an extremely hardworking individual and has faced his challenges head on. It has been an inspiration to see him overcome so many of these challenges and grow. However, he has not done this alone. Asides from his mom’s sacrifices and dedication, there has been a community of people helping him. Without their significant support, Matthew would not be making such great strides.

I have been a climber and mountaineer for over 28 years. Although it is a challenging endeavor, I love climbing because it provides me with a path towards personal growth. However, compared to Matthew’s, and other people on the spectrum’s struggles, climbing is more like a walk in the park. This is why I have decided to use mountaineering as platform to raise funds and awareness of autism.

I will attempt to climb Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world, in the Fall of 2016. Cho Oyu stands at an elevation of 8,201 m (26,906 ft.) on the border of Nepal and Tibet, a short distance from Mt. Everest. I will pay for all expedition costs. All funds raised will be donated to a small number of advocacy and support organizations such as PACT. 

Thank you Sandy Redmon

Sandy-for-blogSandy Redmon, PACT’s Artistic and Workshop Director, develops and teaches theatre, music, and dance activities that help teens and young adults with autism learn to express themselves and enjoy a shared world.  The activities at PACT’s improvisational theatre workshops are the result of Sandy’s research and her original ideas.  She also develops excellent choreography for the performing arts workshops. 

Because of her personal experience with Aspergers in her family, Sandy teaches with compassion.  She is also unusually good at gaining the cooperation of teens.   And she makes it fun.  I think I speak for everyone who has ever attended your workshops – “Thank you Sandy!”

Kathryn Campion
Co-founder/Executive Director
Positive Action Community Theatre (PACT)

PACT Featured in “Encinitas Advocate”

PACT is pleased to be featured in the April 10, 2015 issue of the Encinitas AdvocateThis timely article does a great job of capturing the work we do to help those with unique needs realize their potential, as well as the history and many benefits of our theatre workshops and other programs. We hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about us in the Advocate’s article titled, “Encinitas Theater Group Helps Those with Autism Learn to Act — and React.”