I love getting the chance to examine and start conversations about art in any capacity, and thanks to a history of working with the differently abled community (and theater companies that focus on stories by/for the differently abled), I enjoy putting a spotlight on shows that explore their stories.
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On a Saturday morning in May, the Bottom Line Yoga Studio, deep in the heart of the sleepy weekend loop was buzzing with activity, and the smell of fresh baked treats you wouldn’t normally associate with deep breathing and meditation. What emerged from the studio were tables full of delicious cookies and cakes that also happened to be witty and poignant without saying a word. This was Brit M. Ashe and Andrea Wichman’s (and several Chicago bakers) first foray into an international community of cooks and artists devoted to the cause of raising awareness of mental illness: The Depressed Cake Shop.
In ‘World Builders’, Max (Andrew Cutler) and Whitney (Carmen Molina) are in treatment for a shared personality disorder that renders them both fixated on internal worlds of their own creation. Alone they are socially isolated, focused so much on the maintenance of their private internal retreats that they may be a danger to themselves, but they’re brought together for an experimental treatment designed to quell their internal worlds until they fade away.
It’s a rare, powerful thing to experience an authentic difference in ability in the titular Richard, or to see the disparaging remarks levied on him by friends and enemies directed to an actor that may have a passing familiarity. Rare and powerful is exactly how I’d describe The Gift Theatre’s “Richard III”. This production does more than entertain, it empowers us to demand more representation of long under-represented artists from the theater we see.
Once in a great while, a stage production makes a fantastic impression and the daunting work behind it seems almost effortless. Goodman Theatre’s “The Matchmaker” is charming, delightful and homespun, but for a comedy penned in the 1950’s, this particular telling has a remarkable 2016-era social consciousness. This “Matchmaker” features a cast that is diverse in age, gender, ethnicity and ability, and takes a certain delight in creating an ensemble that is unique and unlikely.
This production features both deaf and hearing actors, super titles for some more intricate exchanges, and interpreters as needed for audience members. The concept that Sawyer and Bauer have concocted involves more than just comprehension; they want to immerse every person in the history, culture and stigmas of deafness.
Patrons of all mobilities could mingle at bar-side tables, and pods of cozy chairs, and films were aired on multiple screens each with audio and visual aids. Guests at-large joined via mobile video units and mingled as well as the event’s organizer and emcee Reveca Torres of Backbones (a local organization supporting spinal cord injury/disease) welcomed us to a night of short films unlike any other.
"Amir Rabiyah opens the show with a spoken word exploration of being queer, disabled, trans and juggling multiple identities. In a prayer, Rabiyah implores listeners to stop asking chronically ill to ‘get well soon’. “Being sick forever terrifies people,” Rabiyah says, and dozens of snapping fingers echo the sentiment."
Ask any member of the artistic team behind “The Forgiving and The Forgetting”, a new musical about one family’s struggle to embrace and accept Alzheimer’s disease, why they chose to get involved, and they will point not to a reason, but a person.
Behind the Scenes with the Ravenswood Players: Theatre from the ground up by adults with disabilities
The Still Point Theater Collective has been a Chicago institution for nearly 21 years, with a focus on theater that gives a voice to those that have no voice. Founder Lisa Wagner has crafted productions that highlight social justice for outreach to schools, prisons and other communities of the disenfranchised of Chicago. The Imagination Workshop was developed in 1992 as a performance venue specifically for adults with disabilities.