Sunday, November 2, 2008
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:
THE BAKED BEAN THEATRE COMPANY
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