Friday, October 24, 2008

Famous PEOPLE Players

Famous PEOPLE Players founder Diane Dupuy. (Image copyright Famous PEOPLE Players)

Every year, it's the same thing. I start my Christmas shopping early, usually right after the kids make their way back to school. I do this for the same reason most early-bird shoppers are pounding the pavement, or rather the floors, of every mall in a 100-mile radius, right after Labour Day. There's a veritable smorgasbord of the choicest merchandise, coupled with the heady pleasure of shopping without the nail-biting anxiety of being stampeded on the way to the checkout counter.

Over the next few months, I spend countless hours second-guessing my choices, finding fault with almost every item. Miraculously, this year, I managed to avoid all that nonsense, and was amazed that perfectly acceptable gifts fell like manna from the sky. There's only one person standing in the way of my victory dance. My mother. She has told me more than once that the last thing an 80-year-old woman needs is more stuff. So, forsaking the usual trek to the mall, I went online, instead. My mother has a passion for live theatre. Why not give her the gift of a night out on the town? I reasoned.

After pouring over dozens of websites, I finally spotted the perfect gift: The Famous PEOPLE Players Dine and Dream Theatre. I've never had the pleasure of sitting in a darkened theatre to watch a black light puppet show, and neither has my mother, I'm certain. My curiosity piqued, I began to excavate the world of FPP. (One of my first finds was a blog that included a reference to "this video about Famous PEOPLE Players, arguably Canada's most successful puppetry troupe.") My knowledge of FPP was sketchy, at best. Thanks to Special People, a Canadian TV-movie I saw over 20 years ago, I do know that a young social worker (Diane Dupuy) had a Big Dream. Armed with little more than drive and ambition, her mission was to create something that would scream to the world, "Our lives have meaning and we can do anything!"

A unique black light theatre was born, providing the perfect backdrop to "integrate the developmentally challenged into society by toughening and strengthening our people to prepare them for the outside world." Dupuy was on fire to create a non-profit organization which would employ people with physical and mental disabilities. "Those individuals share duties in dining room management, arts administration, and theatrical and visual arts performances."

More than simply providing employment for the developmentally disabled, Dupuy set out to "promote, educate, and train them for the Famous PEOPLE Players dinner theatre and instill in the hearts and minds of everyone that dreams can come true when you believe in yourself." Dupuy was a force to be reckoned with, and although faced with tremendous pressure to give up on her dream, she forged ahead.

She walked the walk, and in her motivational speeches, she encourages all of us to "Dare to Dream, Reach for Excellence, and Believe in Yourself." For Dupuy, these are not just empty words, but a call to take action against indifference, intolerance, and resistance to change.

Famous PEOPLE Players is living proof that there are no limits to our creative reach, our dreams have no boundaries, and anything is possible if you dare to think outside the box.

We all have the potential to work magic in the lives of others, but we need to work as a team. "If you want to make a stand, help others make a stand, and if you want to reach your goal, help others reach their goal. Consider yourself and treat others accordingly." Confucius.

Famous PEOPLE Players would have remained a pipe dream had it not been for Dupuy's belief that the larger community is deprived of immeasurable gifts when the intellectually disabled are excluded from it.

It's based not too far from me, in Toronto, Ontario, and tours around the world. Christmas is right around the corner, as my kids never fail to remind me. For now, I can put my feet up on the coffee table and relax. On Christmas Day, my mother will not be opening yet another dust collector destined for the crawlspace. Instead, she'll be looking forward to a trip downtown, where she and I will sit in a darkened theatre watching a premier black light theatre company light up the room.


Wally from Kingston said...

As a means of proving to oneself how well persons with intellectual disability can perform, the Famous PEOPLE Players Dine and Dream Theatre is a fabulous gift of a wonderful evening out. Enjoy.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Wally, for your feedback. I've heard nothing but positive things about FPP, so I'm looking forward to it!

johnlazy said...

people are talented

Terri said...

You will have a great evening. I saw them years ago with a friend of mine and did not know the backstory until intermission (too busy talking to read my program before the show.) It was entertaining, creative and artistic... finding out the history made it interesting (because I'm one of those nosy folks that always wants to know the who and how of things) but the show stands alone. Great choice!

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Terri, I'm 'one of those nosy folks,' too - I've added Diane Dupuy's two books about FPP to my Christmas list - and now, after hearing so many positive comments about it, I can't wait!

Maddy said...

What a fabulous idea. Just been reading your Twitter - yeah, the power of numbers.
Best wishes

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks for dropping by, Maddy, and leaving a comment. Yes, regarding my Twitter update, it was another example of what happens when people join hands in an effort to make much-needed changes. I'm reminded of Harvey Fierstein's quote: "Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself."

Don Yeo said...

How appropriately wonderful that Jenn Lee and Pau Abad have accepted “handing over the reins of Just Show Up” from Maureen Lee!

Each of these dedicated Ideal-Way volunteers meets the qualifying criteria: “exceptionally talented”. The synergy from their individually different backgrounds and perspectives will surely deserve continuing widespread interest in this great blog. I can hardly wait.

Thank you, kind ladies, for bringing an inspiring Christmas gift to Ideal-Way, its clients, and to loyal followers of “Just Show Up”. Carpe diem.

Don Yeo, CEO

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