Contributed by Monica Alves, Communications & Event Planning Intern
Stuart and Finn in their medieval attire
Theatre is a powerful platform for artistic expression. It has the ability to immerse audiences into captivating stories and experiences through live dramatic acting, costumes, music, dance and unique sets. These productions allow us to work out and explore different things that may occur to us in our lives, and also allows us to critique various norms we may not experience personally.
That’s why we were so excited to hear that Neworld Theatre would be presenting their newest production at UBC’s Frederic Wood Theatre. The award-winning Neworld Theatre is a Vancouver based performance company that prides itself on ethnic and cultural diversity. They have produced and toured a variety of productions throughout Canada and around the world, with their latest and greatest production being King Arthur’s Night. This production was selected to be apart of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.
Frederick Wood Theatre
From January 31st to February 4th this classic legendary tale of drama, betrayal, love and war, was brought to life on stage. This one of a kind production featured original music by Veda Hille with a live band and 20 person choir, and included a variety of special extra elements during the showings. There was a post-show talkback on February 1st, VocalEye live described performance on February 3rd, and relaxed performance on February 4th. These additions helped welcome people of all ages and abilities, making it a wonderfully accessible series of performances.
Niall McNeil and friends before the show
This wasn’t your ordinary telling of King Arthur’s Night. Perhaps the most remarkable part of this play was the radically inclusive cast, featuring actors from Burnaby, BC’s Down Syndrome Research Foundation. Niall McNeil, an actor and playwright living with Down Syndrome, co-wrote and starred in this production as the infamous King Arthur himself!
“It is natural, I think, to include different abilities as witnessed by this play. It was so very well done, experiencing how the actors’ individual personalities shone through.” – Juliette Geddes, Alternative Creations Studio.
Seventy of posAbilities’ team members, friends and persons served attended, and we caught up with a few of them after the show to hear their thoughts. posAbilities’ board member, Stuart Carmichael and his 10-year-old son, Finn were kept on the edge of their seats the entire show. “I felt the entire cast worked so well as a team. It was very special,” says Stuart. These two fully immersed themselves into the medieval era, dressing up as noble knights. Finn enjoyed the performance so much that he gave a big standing ovation at the end of the show!
Darlene Brookes of Alternative Creations Studio commended the hard work of the producers of this play, stating, “The sensitivity that the producers had to the needs of the audience were deep and compassionate; providing a safe place for an audience member to retreat, warning us of possible aggression and violence, deep breathing together before the show began. The producers went to great lengths to be accommodating and respectful. With this as our beginning, tension was reduced and the audience joined the show.”
The exchanges between King Arthur and Merlin were a hit with audiences. In fact, it made for our CEO, Fernando Coelho’s favourite moment in the show. He shares,“…King Arthur was being gently prompted with some of his lines by Merlin. Arthur obviously did not need any prompting on this one scene and was showing some signs of irritation with Merlin’s prompting. Arthur, mid-scene, turned to Merlin and stated “I can take it from here” and then turned back towards the audience and proceeded with the scene without missing a beat – it was so well done one could easily assume that it was part the play.” A performance full of surprises!
With a highly integrated cast, this play explored differences from multiple perspectives and voices in an enchanting and humorous format. The actors performed their roles authentically with heart and commitment. We asked attendees why they think it’s important to welcome and encourage actors of diverse abilities into the world of performing arts, and here is what they had to say.
Louise Blackwell, Shared Living Coordinator: “This shouldn’t even be a question, everyone regardless of talent or ability is able to contribute in some way.“
Gord Tolluch, Director of Innovation: “By being part of the arts, persons with disabilities introduce more creative possibilities because they are adding their voices, sensibilities and presence to the creative mix. More importantly, they are adding their voices to the stories of our collective culture. This is critical if we are to move beyond stigma, beyond accessibility, and towards belonging and celebration.”
Anette Holtkamp, Residential Services Facilitator: “I welcome and encourage actors of diverse abilities into the world of performing arts because they can do it well and it builds self- esteem and a sense of belonging to society. My person served and I would attend another performance for sure.”
Fernando Coelho, CEO: “The arts typically serve as a mirror to reflect back to its viewers the world one lives in. If we envision a world that is inclusive, then that vision must be reflected in our communities which includes the world of performing arts.”
The cast of last year’s Stage Door production “The 4th Element”
Our organization understands the value of inclusion in arts. Our very own Stage Door Theatre welcomes creative individuals with developmental disabilities who are seeking opportunities to express their artistic gifts. This program provides camaraderie, skill building and training in theatre arts and stagecraft, digital storytelling, video and film production, music and movement. LIKE Stage Door’s Facebook page and be on the lookout for details of their upcoming yearly live theatre production, “Pirates and Lovers”.
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