Florence boy, 12, finds niche in acting

Aidan Queen_AZVA

Originally published in The Casa Grande Dispatch – March 14, 2019

An actor’s life typically includes a new look — and often a new hairstyle – with every role.

But Aidan Queen, 12, of Florence, has been acting since age 5, despite sitting down for just a couple of haircuts in his entire life.

“They usually cast him because of his hair,” his mother, January, said. Aidan is hyper-sensitive to touch and sound, and a haircut can be unnerving. He speaks softly and has sensitive hearing; noise can be unsettling.

“It’s like a little kid is playing with the lights,” Aidan explained. “… Sometimes I won’t be able to hear people correctly, even when they’re right in front of me.”

He recently went to the Arizona Renaissance Festival near Apache Junction with his school, Arizona Virtual Academy, on student day. “And he loves it there,” his mother said, “but if he’s sitting at a show or something, he’ll cover his ears.”

“I have autism; I have Asperger’s syndrome,” Aidan said. It’s a condition that used to make life difficult in public school, but has yet to be a liability on the stage.

“In acting, he finds a lot of people who are a similar mentality to him,” January said. “They don’t’ specifically have autism,” but often have quirks. “I think that’s why he’s found his niche in acting.”

He played a neighbor boy on Investigation Discovery Channel’s “Deadly Dentists,” and has a role in “The Book of Mormon,” season two, filmed in Utah. He recently played “Jim” in Queen Creek American Leadership Academy’s production of “Treasure Island.”

Aidan and his siblings – brother Logan, 14, and sister Harley, 9 – have appeared in school plays, local children’s theater, TV and film. They live in Florence with their mother; their father, Jeremy; and their grandmother, Kay Dee Strebe.

His siblings want to be actors, but acting is more of a pastime for Aidan. He said his goal is to be a biochemist, researching cures for diseases, and helping endangered animals and people.

He’s also a bookworm. On the ride over to his interview with PinalCentral, he was reading “Keeper of the Labyrinthe,” a mystery novel steeped in Greek mythology.

Tough times at school

Despite consistently high grades, classmates have perceived him to be slow, which made him a target for bullies, he said. He was also hassled for being physically slower than others, and his long hair.

January explained, “Because he’s not super-social, kids see that as possibly him being stupid. … Children don’t like what’s different.”

People don’t like what’s different,” Aidan clarified. At times, he has also felt bullied by teachers, he said.

His mother agreed, “I’ve noticed teachers can be just as big of bullies as kids. People don’t like what’s different.” She said her middle child finally had a great experience in fifth grade, with teachers who knew how to work with him. But in sixth grade, things went downhill fast.

Aidan’s grades slipped to C’s and D’s for the first time in his life. “Because the teacher didn’t know how to control her classroom, and there was so much ruckus and stuff going on that he wasn’t able to work,” January said. Aidan wasn’t the only one struggling. At least one other child had slipping grades, and another was throwing up every day.

“It was not a great environment. I went to the teachers, I went to the principal and I told them, ‘Things need to change or he’s leaving the school, because he’s not learning right now.’” He did leave, mid-way through his sixth-grade year.

He’s now a 7th grader at Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA), an online public school. His last charter school teacher used to complain that Aidan would read the lesson and begin working before she was done with her lecture.

“He’s just a ‘read through it and get the work done’ kind of kid,” January said. “And traditional school doesn’t want you to do that. … I feel like they’re teaching how to pass state tests.” No one is complaining about Aidan at AZVA, his mother said.

“AZVA has given him the opportunity to just do his work,” she said. “He does sit in to actual live sessions with the teachers, if he needs help or of it’s required. Sometimes it’s optional, sometimes it’s required. They ask you to check in at least once a week. With our very busy schedule of him being an actor and the other two being actors, sometimes he misses the classes. Luckily they record the classes, and he can get to them at any time.”

Aidan added AZVA allows him to work at “a flexible pace … and I can have a flexible schedule.” He also studies with other students occasionally at the school’s Blended Learning Center in Queen Creek, which to date has not included any bullies, he said. He added he also likes the ability to check his own grades as often as he likes.

It’s worked so well for Aidan, January said she’s starting her other children on AZVA as well. “They’re all actors so they miss a lot of school.” Logan also plays baseball and Harley also does gymnastics.

Aidan can’t really say what type of role or acting job he wants next. The most fun for him sometimes is just talking with the cast and crew, and sometimes trying out his comedy.

“For example, you know Russian dolls? They’re always so full of themselves. Most people won’t get it, because it’s an inside joke.”

To learn more about Arizona Virtual Academy, visit https://azva.k12.com/

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