Friday, October 24, 2008
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.