We had the good fortune of connecting with Gena Sims and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gena, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I’m trying to become a better risk-taker everyday. I’m naturally very cautious. But the accomplishments I’m most proud of happened when I took a risk.
I think what’s uncomfortable about taking risks is that nervous energy I feel, when I know I’m outside my comfort zone. So I tell myself that the nervousness could actually be excitement for what’s about to happen. A wise friend in high-school told me, if you tell your body your nervousness is really just excitement, your body could believe you.
And when I know in my gut that this “risk”, is actually a safe, progressive step outside my comfort zone, I try to get myself to take it.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Thanks, I’d love to! I am the founder of the Autism Theater Project, and a professional actress, singer, and dancer. I also write and produce music, films, and plays.
I love making people feel good! My goal is to inspire confidence in people, especially those with special needs.
That’s why I started the Autism Theater Project in high school. It’s a non-profit company I developed with my classmates at New World School of the Arts. Through drama classes, and original productions, our company helps people of all abilities express themselves and connect with each other.
After high school, I brought the Autism Theater Project to Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, where I created a show called “In the Life of a Child”. My autistic sister inspired me to write it. The show’s about kids supporting each other in my sister’s dream world, where they can hear all of her thoughts.
The summer of 2018, “In the Life of a Child” made its South Florida Premiere at Actors’ Playhouse and Miami Children’s Theater. And my proudest moment was hearing kids tell me the show made them see people are one and the same.
After graduating college in 2019, I won first place at the National Society of Arts & Letters Drama Competition in D.C. And I went to New York City to play a lead role in a new Off-Broadway musical called “An Enchanted April”.
After coming back to Miami, I enjoyed performing music live, before our world dramatically changed.
In response to COVID-19, my family decided to homeschool my little sister. And my experience teaching her, an autistic teenager, inspired me to start the Autism Theater Project’s new web series, “The Voice Inside”.
“The Voice Inside” is based on true stories, about teens overcoming challenges in their lives.
Our first episode is based on autistic magician Cody Clark’s experience trying to get his parents to let him drive. You can check it out here: https://youtu.be/
I interviewed Cody as well, and he shares great insights in this video: https://youtu.be/-
In addition to directing and producing “The Voice Inside”, I’ll be acting in a feature film this summer about my Haitian culture.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
During the week, I’d take my friend to some of my favorite malls growing up, like Sunset Place and The Falls. Those places are full of memories for me. We would meet up at the Barnes and Noble in South Miami, and go bowling one night at Sunset. Another day, we might shop at The Falls and catch a movie.
On Thursday night, I would take my best friend to Blues Night at The Fish House in Kendall! I’ve loved performing there. The ambiance is full of this love for music and life that is infectious.
Friday night, we’d check out the art scene in Wynwood.
And on the weekend, we’d hit up the club Do Not Sit on the Furniture, in Miami Beach, and go dancing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My father is my motivator everyday to believe in myself and accomplish my goals. My sister’s my inspiration. And I’ve had so many awesome teachers I’ll also dedicate this Shoutout to.
A couple of my most influential teachers have been Chris Arroyo and Barbara Mackenzie-Wood. Chris taught me to sing with love. And Barbara is a college professor at Carnegie Mellon, who encouraged me to grow my company, the Autism Theater Project. Like me, Barbara is a sister of someone with autism. And she’s super passionate about helping people express themselves.
Other: The Voice Inside YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtYHFiCT3o4DBvMYfu8fKOA