Let’s Talk about Disability Theater

So let’s talk about disabilities in theater. Yes it is important to educate our younger audiences. yeah we can do so without treating them like they are clueless. I want to see Addy and Uno today. I left this production bewildered. One part of me was grateful that they are having the discussion in the first place, but the other part of me was somewhat disappointed. Children are much smarter than we give them credit for and often and we are talking down to them.

It’s one thing to show characters on stage who are disabled and fighting for what they want. But it’s quite another to have characters who are solely defined by their disability. And sadly that’s what happened today. As a disabled person myself, I want children to recognize that people with disabilities are just like them. This production tries to do that, but when everything is so on the nose it makes it hard to have any nuances and give rich character development. These are the elements of good theater and children deserve no less. In fact throughout my years as an educator and artist, I have founds children to be some of the most astute audience members ever.

in the 21st century, I think it’s high time to see people with disabilities portrayed in a realistic light rather than mere stereotypes. While I applaud the  intentions and efforts of this show, it is almost like a movie of the week after school special. I believe its intended to be an educationally profound piece of theatre. I wonder if anyone on the production team had to disability themselves? The characters did not ring true and were cartoonish. It tried to “beat us over the head” with its message that bullying is bad and being different is OK. We get this standpoint in the first five minutes. Then the show has no where to go. We, I include myself as a member of the disabled  community, are not just heroes and victims. But we can be bullies and villains. We come in all shapes and forms and deserve to be represented that way. Children need to see us like everybody else, not preached down to about how we “should” be viewed.

YES, bullying and disabilities should be talked about and have the potential to make for gripping pieces of theater. Unfortunately, Addy and Uno, as cute as these puppets are, fail to ring true.  Am I being a little harsh?  Maybe, but people with disabilities are fighting every day to be seen as fully fleshed-out living human beings. Our younger audience members know when they are being talked down to. Children’s Theater can be a great vehicle for change and education, but it must be done so in a more subtle yet truthful manner. We need a more honest approach to presenting this to the public or else we get put in a box and no one likes that!

Brilliant Traces Needs a Reality Check



The wind howls on a cold blustery night in Alaska. Snow is blanketing the Earth, making everything white, separating the difference between the air and sky. Such is the setting of Cindy Lou Johnson’s emotionally charged work, Brilliant Traces. Produced by Art of Warr, this work has a lot of potential, but lacks feasibility.


The premise is this, Rosannah DeLuce is an unstable woman and somehow miraculously drives from Arizona to Alaska over weeks of time in her wedding gown. Her car dies in the terrible storm and she somehow finds herself knocking on Henry Harry’s door. Henry is somewhat of a loner and Rosannah disrupts his isolated life. The next 90 minutes focus on them revealing, their past baggage that still drives them into despair. Despite the hard to believe circumstance, these two broken souls form a connection and they start to negotiate an unlikely relationship.


When you go to the theater, you are asked to suspend your disbelief. I have no problem with that. Yet when circumstances are so unlikely, it is hard to get past it and makes it hard to believe in the rest of the play. Unfortunately, that is what happens here, it is too far fetched and we have trouble buying into the scenario. For example, Rosannah  doesn’t remember driving from Arizona to Alaska as she claims to have been hallucinating the whole time. And when she ends up there somehow, her dress is in pristine condition. Now if she really drove that far of a distance and then walked in a snowstorm, wouldn’t her dress show signs of wear and tear? This lack of attention to detail makes the set up more difficultr to believe.


Yet, the script has potential. It is reminiscent of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea by John Patrick Shanley. With strong performances by Blake Merriman and Alyssa May Gold, there are gems of magic. However, the writing is monologue heavy and it makes it seem like a competition between the two actors over whose life is worse, rather that two people who are lost finding each other. The actors do their best with script, but fall into emotional indulgence every so often. Merriman has moments where his soul comes pouring out of him and we fall in love with him. Gold has similar moments, but her character is so dysfunctional that it makes it hard for her to truly connect and bring forth a lot of innocence.


I left the theater a little bewildered, but not completely disappointed. Johnson is on to something, but more realistic circumstances would help us buy into this piece from the beginning.