Why Can’t We All Play Together?
It seems in order to pretend to be someone else, you have to first become them as if they were yourself. I never understood this paradox; I have to be real to pretend?!
Along my journey as an actor, director and playwright, I have been fortunate to work with some amazingly talented actors with disabilities. However, many of them had skills and talents that had been immediately dismissed or overlooked because they themselves were categorized as “disabled.” As was I. With the help of some great mentors, I started landing roles. Yet, something was missing. I was still meeting directors who were closed-minded about working with disabled actors. I mean, why can’t Blanche Dubois be blind or in a wheelchair? I think it would be fascinating to see this new interpretation done. I’ll never forget seeing Buried Child by Nicu’s Spoon Theater, who cast a deaf actor to play Tilden and he spoke on stage. Although hard to understand at times, this actor broke down barriers and delivered one of the best theatrical performances that I have ever seen. It was riveting, inspiring, and unforgettable. If art does truly imitate life, shouldn’t we let our art embody acceptance, respect, and tolerance? I knew something had to be done.
In March of 2011, I founded Identity Theater Company: a group of differently abled artists devoted to exploring and challenging issues of the human condition. We strive to present work that cultivates understanding, promotes tolerance, and engages its participants in meaningful discussions. We need to open up our minds and hearts to artists with vast amounts of talent that goes unseen due to pre-formed judgments about actors and theater members who have a “disability.” I hope Identity Theater Company will become a beacon of hope for these talented individuals who want to be a part of the theater community, but are finding it difficult due to a false, pre-conceived notion that they are somehow not capable of performing because they are disabled