When working with adults with disabilities, you have to make adjustments to accommodate their needs and help them to participate at their best. Usually these are minor and go unnoticed. But sometimes these little changes steal the show!
Last year, I was directing our original inclusive musical The Legend of Blarnia and Eric was in his first year with ArtStream. His character was the King of Blarnia.
We knew that Eric understood his character. He had helped to develop this character, but he was getting tripped up by trying to remember his lines. Suddenly, the funny, powerful King of Blarnia was just a flustered, frustrated man with a disability. I sent Eric and his scene partner to run lines with one of the Assistant Directors, Caitlin.
After class, Caitlin said that they had worked and worked, but Eric just wasn’t getting it. The lines were too complicated for him to memorize. After some discussion, Caitlin had the idea to change almost all of Eric’s lines to “No.” If he knew what he was saying, then the King of Blarnia could command the stage.
We reworked the scene, and, it must be said, Eric’s scene partners, the Queen and the Squire, really stepped up. They memorized the new scene in under a week. All Eric had to do was say “No” and really mean it.
At our next rehearsal, Eric’s “No” became the highlight of the scene. He said each “No” with more gusto than the last and the character of the King of Blarnia was shining through. Finally, after a rousing musical number, the heroes asked his permission to fight the evil wizard, and the King said, “Fine. Be careful.”
Eric beamed with pride during curtain call. He bragged about his parents and friends coming to see the show. Other audience members congratulated him during intermission, quoting their favorite, “No.”
This victory is possible because of the flexibility of the arts. At ArtStream each actor succeeds in a different way and each character shines onstage.