Clowns Like Me: Autistic Performer Heading Off-Broadway

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clowns like me

When Joel Ehrenpreis first encouraged his son Scott to share his experience living with mental illness and autism spectrum disorder, he never dreamed that the idea would turn into “Clowns Like Me,” the next Off-Broadway sensation. From the time he was young, Joel realized there was something different about his son. He and his wife Rosalyn watched as Scott struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression, before finally receiving a diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder well into his twenties. The one respite from these challenges for Scott was the stage where, if just for a little while, he could shed his diagnosis and step into a realm of self-empowerment and discovery.  

Throughout Scott’s time earning his degree in Performance from Ohio University and working with local theatre companies, Joel encouraged him to share his story: not only entertain others, but to educate, inspire, and reduce stigmas about these conditions. In 2022, Scott was ready. Joel enlisted the help of Playwright and Director Jason Cannon, a former ten-year Associate Artist for Florida Studio Theatre, who, together with Scott, crafted “Clowns Like Me,” a one-man show told in Scott’s own words. Combining humor, gut-punching truth, and heartbreaking realities all wrapped within a message of hope, Clowns Like Me plays in May 2024 at Sarasota’s Cook Theatre.  

Not only does the play resonate with audiences, but guided talkback sessions following each performance illustrate how deeply Scott’s message had been heard, and the essential need for a continued conversation about topics of mental health and autism spectrum disorders.

Related: 6 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Mental Health Seriously 

“Clowns Like Me” returned to the Cook Theatre for a limited engagement in August 2023, where it came to the attention of Broadway Tony-award winning producer Jonathan Demar. Now, with Joel’s perseverance, passion, and continued fundraising, “Clowns Like Me” will run on Off-Broadway for eight weeks this summer at the prestigious DR2 Theatre in the heart of Union Square.  

The Off-Broadway production is not only a dream come true for Scott, but for Joel as well. “The Off-Broadway production will pave the way for bringing this message to audiences who need it most,” says Joel. “It is my hope that this success will lead to many more opportunities for touring the show and sharing Scott’s essential message for those living with mental illness: ‘you are not alone’.”  

Sarasota audiences can attend a sneak peek performance of the New York version of “Clowns Like Me” at the Cook Theatre on May 23-26. Tickets are $30. For tickets and information: www.ClownsLikeMe.com