Disability 101: ‘Invisible voices’ hits the screen
July 4, 2010
It is a very odd experience to see your own face blown up to gargantuan size and plastered all over, not one, but two screens in front of a crowd of a couple hundred people, many of whom you don’t know. Hmmm … a few complexion issues despite the carefully applied make-up.
I’m one of the cast members in the brand new DVD, “Invisible Voices,” which made it’s world premiere at the National ADA Symposium on June 21 in Denver. In Invisible Voices, six individuals with disabilities make our voices heard by telling our own life stories. Three of us have acquired disabilities and three have disabilities from birth. Each person’s story is woven through the others, creating a tapestry of stories about disability, family, heartache, joy, accomplishment, and life in the human race.
If this sounds familiar, you’re right. I told you about this show when it debuted as a theater performance last fall at Theatreworks in Colorado Springs. That theater performance was filmed and produced into this DVD, accompanied by a special feature of behind-the-scenes footage.
It was odd telling my life story in the theater. It was difficult for me, airing out my dirty laundry for all to see. Our theater performances sometimes left me gasping for breath wondering what the heck I was doing. How did I wind up involved in this?
At first I wondered if anyone would be interested. Ping Chong, our director who wrote Invisible Voices along with Sara Zatz, promised us our audience would be very interested. He interviewed each of us extensively to write our life stories into this tapestry. This is a formula he has used in 40 theater productions in his Undesirable Elements series. Each of these productions explored the segments of our society that are generally considered “other.”
During our theater performances of Invisible Voices, I started to get a glimpse of the impact of what we were doing. With bright lights shining in my eyes and a vague darkness where the audience sat, I could hear their sniffles and sobs and gasps and laughter as they lived our lives along with us. Then I saw their tears when they came after each show to shake our hands and thank us.
Wow. Maybe Ping was onto something.
But then the theater performance of Invisible Voices was over and all six of us went back to our normal lives and daily struggles. Then, after much behind-the-scenes work and sweat on the part of many people at Meeting the Challenge, Inc. and Windstar Studios, Inc., suddenly we find ourselves at the world premiere of Invisible Voices.
And I thought the theater performance was difficult. The world premiere of the DVD was much more difficult. There was my gargantuan face on the screen along with our other cast members. People in this audience came from all over the United States, Puerto Rico, and even Japan. And with the DVD available for purchase, many audience members walked away with a permanent product, that they could watch again and share with others.
How in the heck did I wind up here?
After the closing credits ran and the lights went up, the applause started and the audience was invited to share their comments or ask questions. Audience members told us they planned to take Invisible Voices back to their home communities and share it with others. And audience members thanked us, with tears in their eyes.
Wow. Ping is onto something.
If you would like to explore Invisible Voices further or order your own copy, go to http://www.invisiblevoices.org.