Step Notes: The program provides theater training for people with disabilities

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A new training program for actors innovates in a profession with few entry points for people with disabilities.

Based in Vancouver, but open to people with disabilities across the country, Realwheels Acting Academy is accepting applications until June 30 for a three-year pilot program that will provide theater, voice and movement training to those who identify with the community of people with disabilities. from deaf artists to physically disabled or neurodiverse (eg, those living with autism).

Amy Amantea is chair of the board of directors of Realwheels, the Vancouver-based theater company that started the drama school. For nearly 20 years, the group has presented works featuring disabled people.

Amantea went blind at the age of 20 in 2007. She had been playing since she was a child, but gave up when she lost her sight.

“I was like, ‘who’s going to want a blind actor?'” She said in a phone interview from Vancouver.

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But after attending a Realwheels production, Amantea got involved in the company and has been acting ever since.

But it wasn’t easy to get roles. Amantea says roles for people with disabilities make up only 2% of stage and screen roles, and most of them are filled by able-bodied performers.

“When I don’t see my stories and myself represented, it hurts tremendously,” she says. “… This is one of the reasons the drama academy is so important.”

Composed of professionals at the peak of their art, the academy will offer a part-time program adapted to students. This means that the program adapts to them, not the other way around.

“There are so many barriers to the education and training of (disabled) actors,” Amantea explains, noting that traditional theater programs may offer classes at 8 a.m., which may not be possible for them. people who depend on a personal assistant for dressing.

Amantea sees the actor program as a way to help increase the representation of actors with disabilities in professional productions, where entry barriers are also high. She says something basic, like accessing a script for an audition in a form she can read, can be difficult.

It’s also intimidating for actors with disabilities when they see roles that highlight disability go to actors who don’t, like Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything (about Stephen Hawking) or Riz Ahmed, a hearing actor who plays a musician who loses his hearing in Sound of Metal.

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But there are encouraging signs of change, as creators with disabilities take “ownership of their own content,” Amantea says, pointing to Ryan O’Connell – a gay American actor with cerebral palsy and the creator of Special on Netflix.

The next step, says Amantea, is to include actors with disabilities in the distribution of productions that are not disability-focused.

“My hope is that people with disabilities don’t limit themselves to this kind of work and can fit into mainstream work and integrate,” she says. ” I would like too

like being your Starbucks barista. This is representation.

For more information on the Realwheels training program, visit realwheels.ca.

• • •

The Concrete Theater commissioned two Edmonton artists, Helen Belay and Richard Lee, to create short online videos for Transformations, a National Arts Center project that asks artists “what would it take to transform our society for the better?” good of all?

Belay has written a short but rich story called Like This, which tells the story of the connection she feels between her homeland and her home. Richard Lee’s Side Shave celebrates empathy – and “dance like a fool”. Both works are featured on Concrete’s website at concretetheatre.ca/community.

• • •

There’s good news about the Found Festival, the annual exploration of creativity in unexpected spaces that’s hosted by local artists, sisters and producers, Megan Dart and Beth Dart of Common Ground Arts Society.

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Last year, the festival was seen both online and live (in cleverly distanced scenarios). This year there will also be a combination of digital programming and remote in-person work through fully local programming. More details will be revealed soon, but be aware that the festival takes place from July 8 to 11.

Common Ground Arts Society is also presenting the world premiere of Major Matt Mason Collective’s production of Night, by Geoffrey Simon Brown. The dance and theater performance, which runs at 10 p.m. June 17-24, and again June 24-26, is a live performance in a secret outdoor location. (Well, not so secret that you won’t know where it is in your way, but secret for now.) For more ticket information, keep your eyes on Major Matt Mason’s website.

• • •

The International Children’s Arts Festival has been offering live performances online since April. But the festival ends this weekend with a triumphant finale featuring bands like The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries and The Wizards of Oakwood Drive. I’m especially excited about the cozy story presented on Saturdays at 7 p.m. by Big Heart Journey. For details and tickets, visit st.albert.ca.

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