I See Myself: The Power of Theater and Working on “Richard III” #Shakespeare #Actor #DisabilityAwareness

Oftentimes when we watch television, a film, or go to the theater, we are made to think. We see representations of various characters, and more than likely, we can see parts of ourselves in them. When you are a differently-abled actor, those opportunities to view an actual portrayal of yourself are few and far between. It goes far beyond the portrayal of a disability. As a differently-abled actor (I have a mild form of cerebral palsy), seeing someone who is like me, not just making their best attempt to portray me, has always been something I long for. All of my life, I’ve wanted to see myself. I wanted to know that there were other little girls out there with crooked legs and weak limbs, crutches, and wheelchairs. I wanted to see myself. Apparently, when I was around six or so, I had remarked to my mother that my physical therapist was “like me” (due to having cerebral palsy herself) which made me happy.

As an actor, I want to give back. Theater lends itself to this because we as performers are in the same physical space as our audience. We breathe the same air as our audience, and they go through experiencing the story and its emotions alongside us as actors. We also have the opportunity to show people themselves. As Hamlet says, we “Hold the mirror up to Nature.” Up until recently, the mirror has been foggy. It hasn’t been able to reflect those who don’t see themselves. Slowly, we are making our way through that fog. Deaf West’s successful, landmark production of Spring Awakening has recently been brought to Broadway (along with the first actor to appear on Broadway who uses a wheelchair in real life–Ali Stroker).

Now, I find myself as an actor in another ground-breaking production with a differently-abled cast in William Shakespeare’s Richard III. Traditionally, Richard has been portrayed as a hunchback, and everyone else around him is “normal.” However, in this production, Richard is unaffected by any physical affliction. It’s those around him who have different-ablities (disabilities of some form) and are the normal ones. We take center stage as a differently-abled cast, and in turn, are able to show those little kids who might be asking themselves, “Will I ever get to see myself?” that the answer is a loud and proud “YES!!”

This production, this cast, and this director have contributed to one of the most rewarding experiences for me as a performer and a human being. I am so grateful that we will be able to show our audience that theater can be a powerful tool that is therapeutic, all-inclusive, and amazing.

For more information on Nicu’s Spoon Theater’s production of Richard III, please visit www.spoontheater.org. The show is at the Secret Theater from September 29th-October 11th.

Directed by Stephanie Barton-Farcas 


*Appearing courtesy of the Actors Equity Association

Taking Advantage of a “Career Lull”: Using My Words

What do I have in common with Steve Martin, Tina Fey, James Franco, and Andrew McCarthy? We’re actors who are also writers. You read that correctly, Andrew McCarthy is, in fact, a writer. He’s an award-winning travel writer. Check out some of his stuff on National Geographic Traveler. Now, I’m not talking about actors who all of the sudden want to “write” their memoirs, and get a ghost writer to do it for them. I’m talking about people with actual skills, who do their own writing. As a matter of fact, Tina Fey and Steve Martin actually STARTED OUT as WRITERS. I’m guessing they did it while they were pursuing acting as well, due to the fact that they are in both realms of the industry. Granted, there are those actors who have also written screenplays or stage plays, and blogs,  but that’s a different type of article all together.

I started acting when I was around the age of 8, maybe 9.  But I started making up stories as soon as I could talk. I even had an imaginary friend when I was 5 who I would tell my stories to. Her name was Jinglelyn, and again, I was 5. When I actually learned to read and write, writing took a back seat to performing onstage. I had found my passion for storytelling on stage. And I loved it. It’s my first love. Telling stories, no matter what shape or form, is what I love.

What I find funny now, is the fact that my parents kept giving me journals on my birthdays or Christmas, and I never really used them. I wasn’t really a “dear diary” type of girl anyways. It seemed sort of silly to recount my day on paper. I started writing short stories and plays, and when I got to high school, I helped start up the creative writing club at my all-girls, Catholic high school. I wrote stories, parts of novels I was working on, and seriously wanted to become a writer and an actor when I grew up. I was involved in anything creative. I sang in choirs, acted in the school plays and wrote stories. My English teacher even gave me a writing award my junior year of high school.  When I got to college, I majored in English because I love the element of story-telling, plot and characters. I thought it would help in the acting realm because I was able to learn about the different things that make up a good story. It was sort of like four years of script-analysis. I acted throughout college, even directed. My senior year of college, I got my first headshots and auditioned at my first major theater convention, which led to moving to NYC to study at Circle in the Square Theater School.

Within these past six years, I have been acting and putting writing on the back burner. I got my union cards and even pursued stand-up.  The closest I came to writing, before starting this blog, was stand-up comedy, which I still love because you can create your own material.  I started this blog because I wanted to get back into writing, and I wanted to write something from the perspective of an actor who was going through the ups and downs in their career. Not someone who is washed-up and giving advice. I’m still in the trenches and being in a  career “lull,” I have been writing about what I love. Movies I love, movies I loathe, anything and everything that has to do with the industry, with a unique perspective. It seems like I’m in good company of those who came before me. If you use all of your talents, it can lead to something. What that is, I don’t know. But I am pursuing my writing and my acting. So I guess I can add a back-slash to my job description. I’m a writer/actor. And I’m so glad you are reading my blog. Thanks.

Shakespeare Reworked: “Scotland, PA”-The Modern Macbeth

“Scotland, Pa” (2001)

In honor of Macbeth coming back to Broadway with Alan Cumming at its helm, I’m doing a new section called “Shakespeare Reworked.” Whether it’s an updated, modern version of his work such as the 1996 Romeo + Juliet with the original language in tact, or a modern re-telling such as Scotland, PA or She’s the Man, I’m talking SHAKESPEARE.

I first came across Scotland, PA in college. I was into Shakespeare, and just for fun, I decided to see what film adaptations we had in the library. This one caught my eye because it wasn’t actually using Shakespeare’s original play for the dialogue, but updated it. It was campy, interesting and just as intriguing as the original, Macbeth.

From Netflix:Scotland, PA takes Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” someplace it’s never been: 1970s white-trash America. James LeGros and Maura Tierney are Joe and Pat McBeth, a couple stuck in dead-end fast-food jobs. When they decide to murder their boss and take over the burger joint, their foul plot is sure to hit some snags. Before long, Lt. McDuff (Christopher Walken) begins an investigation that leads him straight to the heart of a dysfunctional fast-food fantasy.

Who wouldn’t want to see Lady Macbeth’s crazy, “Out Damned Spot” scene done in a pharmacy? IT IS! And it’s fantastic. Andy Dick, Amy Smart, and Timothy “Speed” Levitch play hippies (witches) and Christopher Walken plays one hell of a Macduff. It’s a fantastic take on the classic play and it is as entertaining as the original, with a 70s flare! Personally, I love when writers update Shakespeare. I think it shows imagination, and I honestly think that Shakespeare himself would find it just as amusing, if not more. It’s available on Netflix, and I believe you might even be able to watch it for free on YouTube. Do yourself a favor, check it out. It’s amazing.