Sunday, November 2, 2008

So You Want to Be an Actor?

Kaleidoscope Theatre (taken from here)

Acting is one of the most competitive industries in the world. If you are developmentally disabled, and putting on plays for family and friends just doesn't cut it, then how would you go about making your dream a reality? Last week's post got me thinking about the type of person who simply won't take no for an answer. Diane Dupuy, founder of Famous PEOPLE Players, believes that everyone has a creative core within them just waiting to be mined. In 1974, she was determined to share her dream with the rest of the world. For six months, she battled against naysayers, who repeatedly told her, "You simply don't understand that they are not capable of doing the kind of work you describe."

Daniel Day Lewis said, "The thing about performance, even if it's only an illusion, is that it is a celebration of the fact that we do contain within ourselves infinite possibilities."

Gail Williamson, the Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, spends her downtime fighting for the rights of performers with Down syndrome and other disabilities. "You can't take 'no' as the final answer," Williamson said. And so, she set out to create an online service to locate talent with developmental disabilities. The Down Syndrome in Arts & Media Website "connect casting directors with actors, but event planners will be able to find public speakers and entertainers, set decorators will be able to find visual artists with unique one of a kind art, and publishers will be able to find poets and writers, all who have DS or other developmental disabilities."

Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts is working to increase awareness and "enhance opportunities for people behind the scenes as well, such as all the talented disabled writers, directors, editors, etc. whose talents often go unrecognized." One member said, "It's ambitious, but it's shocking we aren't better represented in today's world."

But if your heart is set on being on the other side of the footlights, there are avenues open for developing your gift. DramaWay, an organization based in Toronto, Ontario, provides innovative drama programs for those with special needs. Danielle Strnad, founder of DramaWay, was inspired to create a place where people of all abilities are encouraged to explore their creative potential. "Using dramatic techniques, participants are led down the paths of discovery. Participants are given the opportunity to engage in drama and other art forms." DramaWay helps aspiring actors to explore the process of creation, for it is the creative journey, itself, that leads to personal growth. They "believe that drama allows everyone the opportunity to connect with others in their community, and to learn about themselves while doing so." Workshops and structured sessions are offered, all in the name of improving social skills, increasing self-confidence, and enhancing communication.

In the U.K., The Kaleidoscope Theatre was founded almost 30 years ago, the first theatre company of its kind. The founders "have a passion for theatre, because they believe in high standards of performance and in quality of life and, above all, because they have a love and high regard for one another." Most of the performers have Down syndrome.

All but five of 41 cast members of Jerry's Habima Theatre, in Atlanta, Georgia, have developmental disabilities. One of the actors in this year's show said, "It's challenging every day to do things. But this shows people with disabilities 'you can do it.' " Don't take no for an answer.

For more information, go to:

Theatre companies:

Wild Swan Theatre

Performing arts organizations:

The Centre for the Arts in Human Development, Faculty of Fine Arts of Concordia University
Heart and Halo Talent
Performers with Disabilities

In the News:

Down Syndrome and the Acting Gene, BellaOnline
Film with Down syndrome cast tweaks taboos - “What Is It?"
‘Rising Stars’, L.A. Times

Drama Therapy:

Dramatherapy Network


Literacy 'n' Poverty Project said...

This is very interesting. I honestly haven't given much thought to the fact there are people with developmental disabilities that aspire to be actors. It's so great to hear about programs like DramaWay who are helping people with special needs live their dream. We really can do or be anything we want to be and shouldn't let anyone tell us otherwise.

Great post!

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks for taking the time to drop by, Chanelle! I agree, we all have something to give back to the larger community, and we shouldn't allow anyone to tell us otherwise.

It's heartening to know, too, that there are organizations and theatre companies working actively to create more opportunities for an often overlooked segment of the population.

kubrickspick said...

I just wanted to let you know that your blog has been featured in the Blog Open House. and


I am Harriet said...

Congratulations on being featured in the blog open house.
I like the way your blog deals with something so real.

Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Ryan, for featuring 'Just Show Up' in the Blog Open House. Your blog is jampacked with useful tips!

Harriet, thank you for taking the time to drop by, and your kind words!

thejoereview said...

God Bless them. They inspire me to push harder for what I want in life. They truly live their dreams without boundaries!

Maureen Lee said...

Well said, Betty! The founder of Ideal-Way, Robert Hajjar, has taught me, and everyone around him, to just show up and do your best, in whatever career you've chosen.

Your comment reminded me of a quote by Karl Weick, "Simply pushing harder within the old boundaries will not do.”

I am Harriet said...

Hi Maureen!
Thanks for your kind note and your follow.
I have added you to my blog roll.

Thanks again :)

Maureen Lee said...

Harriet, thanks for adding me to your blogroll, and following me! I have added you to my blogroll, as well (under Interesting Sites).

johnlazy said...

wow I'm inspired there is always a possibility for everyone. I also want to be an actor heheheheh

kubrickspick said...

I just wanted to thank you for participating in the blog open house.
I have posted all of the participating blogs.

Do you use bookmarking?
I am going to have a bookmarking open house in the future.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, once again, Ryan, for including Just Show Up in your Blog Open House!

I'm looking forward to hearing more about the bookmarking open house.

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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