Former NTPA Starcatcher Creates Spectrum Storytime

Ethan Thomas // courtesy Spectrum Storytime
Ethan Thomas // courtesy Spectrum Storytime

Ethan Thomas, who grew up in Plano and performed onstage with Plano Children’s Theater – now North Texas Performing Arts (NTPA) – is now hosting an online series called “Spectrum Storytime” as a way to lift spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has named his program to honor the fact that he is on the autism spectrum.

Ethan is an aspiring voice actor, and he loves connecting with people through storytelling. According to his YouTube channel, he “hopes to show the world that people with autism spectrum disorders can ‘defy the diagnosis’ daily.”

When Ethan lived in Plano, he performed with both NTPA’s Starcatchers special needs troupe as well as the traditional youth troupes. Since graduating high school, he has been attending college and performing with a conservatory in Portland, Oregon.

“Ethan has always been a character. He is a natural entertainer,” shared his mother, Millicent Williams. “When we moved to the Plano area, it was at that point we recognized it was a good idea to put him in classes that would bring out all his artistic qualities. That was how we found Plano Children’s Theater.”

“Being on the autism spectrum, finding a peer group was challenging for him. But the young people at the community theater gave him a family. He found relationships. He felt supported not just by his contemporaries, but also by the directors and the parents who were providing support to productions,” Millicent remembered.

Ethan Thomas performed with Plano's North Texas Performing Arts // courtesy Spectrum Storytime
Ethan Thomas performed with Plano’s North Texas Performing Arts // courtesy Spectrum Storytime

Sara Egelston Akers, founder of Plano Children’s Theatre and North Texas Performing Arts, recalled Ethan’s talents as a physical and vocal actor. “Ethan Thomas played many memorable characters at North Texas Performing Arts. [His] ability to change the pitch and sound of this voice made each character a delight. My favorite was his physical and vocal portrayal of Donkey in ‘Shrek.’ His comic timing was perfect.”

Due to the sense of home he found at North Texas Performing Arts, Ethan was able to flourish as an actor. Since high school, he’s taken theater classes at his college, improv classes, training for performing on-camera, and he works with a voiceover coach. He’s also had the opportunity to be an extra and stand-in on Netflix shows, Hulu shows, independent films and commercials filmed in Portland where he currently lives.

The idea for Spectrum Storytime came when Ethan was looking for a way to get his voice out there. Though he enjoys acting, his ultimate career goal is to be a voice actor. Ethan has a list of 70 different voices he can do, and he found that the best way to showcase that was through reading picture books.

Ethan has a Facebook page and YouTube channel where he shares storytime readings. He has been reading stories for his audience since the fall of 2019. Before the pandemic, this included in-person readings as well, which he has done for nonprofit organizations through Portland as well as for Nike’s children development center.

“Ethan is like the Pied Piper. Kids gather around him, and he’s able to capture their attention. Once he started reading one book, the kids would just start bringing more books out. They’d pass up playtime, even, to listen to him read another book,” Millicent said.

Now that the world has moved online for the moment, Ethan has made an effort to be even more active in sharing stories on his channels. He wants to ensure that kids can get a daily storytime, and he also wants to help give the parents a break from providing constant entertainment during the quarantine.

Spectrum Storytime on Facebook > Spectrum Storytime on YouTube >
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