Act 1: Telling Our Stories

Natalie Makup

Theatre is a storied tradition. It’s a forum for artists to express their views and enact change. From Shakespeare’s clear appreciation of the crown to Tennessee Williams’s open representations of the American South, plays provide an opportunity for artists and audiences alike to explore worlds they have yet to experience.

When it comes to theatre, this quarter we’ve set our goals high.

Greg MakeupTwo members of our program staff, Hanna and Jen, have begun teaching a Theatre class, which aims to teach every aspect of the subject: Set, makeup, lighting, costume design, and more, all of which will culminate in a full scale production. Our Friends will choose the production areas that interest them most and present detailed renderings of their designs. For those who prefer to act, they will learn how to audition. Every Friend in the class will have an important role in creating the final product.

We also have a Puppet Theatre class. In Puppet Theatre our Friends deepen their puppetry skills by creating Shadow Puppet shows. So far, they’ve written and performed two unique shows with rod puppets. Their shadow puppet designs require a new set of skills to operate.

Our Friends love theatre. They enjoy seeing productions by the Nashville Shakespeare Company and the Nashville Public Library Puppet Truck. And they love playing with form and medium to create beautiful puppets different from any they’ve used before.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not included in professional shows very often. They rarely see themselves represented onstage; troupes like Backlight Productions in Franklin, TN—a theatre company for people with special needs—are few and far between.

Without exposure, public perception of an underrepresented group remains the same. Our Theatre and Puppet Theatre classes offer a chance for our Friends to tell their stories. These productions challenge the stereotypes present in current society by showcasing the variety of skills and ideas our Friends, like any other group, possess.

Rather than typical tales of triumph despite disability (a trope that persists across the greater theatre repertoire), our Friends focus their lenses on the ordinary realities of their lives. Whether writing about their abilities and dreams or their disappointments, they provide a more complete picture.

Like anyone else, our Friends are dynamic individuals with gifts and flaws. Like anyone else, they deserve to tell their own stories.

Embarking on this journey with our Friends is exciting. We don’t know where these stories will take us, but one thing is sure: our Friends, the artists, are at the helm.

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