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Performance Breaks Down Limits
"Being able to get in and out of a building is not enough. You need meaningful access. That means being able to use the coffee shop and the bathroom, just like everyone else. You can get into theatres now, but can you also get on stage? That has to be the goal."
Rick Hanson, 2004
Original, unexpected, and possible are only a few of the words to describe Unlimited, which runs at 7 pm nightly from March 17 through March 21 at the University Theatre. Actors of mixed abilities perform in a spirited and provocative production created in a unique partnership among Lisa Doolittle, U of L drama professor, and Pamela Boyd, founding artistic director of MoMo mixed ability Dance Theatre in Calgary, and local organizations supporting people living with disabilities.
Each of the cast members, portraying characters from all walks of life, transforms over the course of a single evening, from dusk to dawn. The characters end up all together at a grand social event where the possibilities seem endless. Emerging from the limits imposed not only society, but also themselves, characters discover the possibilities and dangers of the unlimited space at the party.
“Unlimited is more than just a performance,” explains co-director Lisa Doolittle. “By establishing the mixed ability course at the university and creating this mixed ability production Unlimited moves into social action - to change perceptions around disabilities.” She adds, “It is as important for people with disabilities to represent themselves on stage, as it is to include them elsewhere - in jobs, relationships and the fabric of our communities. We are researching the ripple effects the classes and this production have on the disability community, families who live with people with disabilities, students working on and off stage, and the local community.”
According to Doolittle, audiences can expect the same high level of artistry and design they have come to adore from U of L productions along with a twist of the unexpected, featuring surprising, moving and gorgeous images created on stage with the cast manipulating huge sheets of paper, which make up the set, designed by James McDowell. “The fabric costumes designed by David Barrus are also part of the action,” says Doolittle. “We’ll watch the 22 performers change from ordinary to extraordinary as they prepare to attend the party.”
“We are also excited to be working with Dept. of Music faculty member Bente Hanson who plays live music throughout the show - both improvised and composed,” says Doolittle. “The language of movement, image and dance fuels the story and animates the characters. Some sections of the performance are freshly improvised each night.”
Unlimited is the third phase of a project initially begun as a series of theatre/dance workshops for people with disabilities exploring the challenges of meaningful employment, in partnership with local organizations Lethbridge Association for Community Living and Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association.
“The U of L has also hosted a rare initiative to proactively include a group of people with disabilities in a for-credit university drama course along with non-disabled students,” says Doolittle, who, with assistance a national team from the SSHRC-funded Art for Social Change Partnership, is investigating the effects of inclusive practices at the post-secondary level of education. “These inclusive practices are already viewed as beneficial in K-12 education across the country.”
Tickets available online at uleth.ca/tickets, by phone (403-329-2616) or at the box office Monday-Friday 12:30-3:30 and 1 hour before ticketed performances. $18 regular; $13 senior/alumni; $12 student.