Lahmann: Exploring disabiiity through theater
September 20, 2009
I have the great honor of being chosen to participate as a performer in Invisible Voices: New Perspectives on Disability, a theatrical performance by Ping Chong & Company premiering at Theatreworks in Colorado Springs Oct. 1-17.Ping Chong is an internationally acclaimed theatre director from New York who has spent the last 17 years developing his Undesirable Elements series, examining the intersection of cultures in America and abroad. Ping Chong was commissioned by Theatreworks and Meeting the Challenge, Inc. (which operates the DBTAC Rocky Mountain ADA Center) to continue his Undesirable Elements series with Invisible Voices, an exploration of what it means to have a disability in Colorado, and how the disability community intersects with our society.After a lengthy application process, Mr. Chong chose 18 local Colorado residents with disabilities to interview extensively. From those 18, he chose six cast members. Utilizing the information he gained in his interviews, he developed a script telling the true life stories of the cast members, highlighting their experiences as persons with disabilities. Cast members include Billy Allen, who is deaf; Kevin Pettit who lives with traumatic brain injury; Kelly Tobin, who is a double amputee and lives with skeletal dysplasia (congenital abnormalities of the limbs); Rebecca Shields, who is blind (and appears with Rizzo, her service dog); Rick Modderman, who lives with paraplegia; and myself – I have multiple sclerosis.Mr. Chong masterfully weaves all of our stories together, and then weaves our stories into the greater story of disability history and the disability rights movement. Billy Allen leads the incorporation of American Sign Language into the production.If you will join us in an Invisible Voices performance, you will share in some of the most painful and traumatic moments of our lives. However, you will also share the most triumphant moments of our lives and the funniest moments of our lives.This is not a performance for those who care to immerse themselves in depressing, sad tales. This is a performance for those who are searching for our common humanity despite our differences. This is a performance for those who understand it is possible to cry and laugh in the same moment. This is a performance for those who understand that no matter who we are and what our circumstances, there is a life to be lived and humor to be found.You will laugh, you will cry, and you will cheer. And, most importantly, you will understand what people with disabilities want to tell the rest of our community. Voices that are usually silenced have the opportunity for expression.I would like to personally invite you to join us at one of our eight performances at Theatreworks. For tickets go to http://www.theatreworkscs.org. For additional information, go to http://www.invisiblevoices.org. This website will also lead you to the Invisible Voices Facebook page. Become a fan and have the opportunity to read comments from the cast as we prepare for our performances.Windstar Studios, Inc. in Colorado Springs will be creating a DVD of the production which will be distributed throughout the United States beginning March 2010, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July 2010.We invite you to join us and laugh, cry, understand, and become changed.Sandy Lahmann, a previous Frisco resident now temporarily lost on the Front Range, can be e-mailed at email@example.com.