I have been passionate about theatre since high school. I enjoyed the writing and performing side of things. As soon as I started university I joined a German language theatre group. I made lots of friends during this time. At the end of 2003 I played a lead role in a performance. Two weeks after the play finished I injured my spinal cord and became a quadriplegic. I was sad to think I might never perform again.
After my injury I remained close friends with the director of the company. James Adler, now director of Eagle's Nest Theatre, encouraged me to explore different options in the theatre world if I did not feel comfortable being onstage.
In 2009 I helped produce a play for this company. It was exciting to be part of the creative process again. I finally felt inspired to get more involved so we began discussing other projects. However, I was admitted to hospital with a pressure wound and spent nearly 12 months there. I thought I had lost my second chance.
A couple of months ago James asked if I could help him translate a play from German into English. It looked interesting so I was happy to help. The author of the play was impressed with the translation so she asked me to play one of the roles in it. I felt a little frightened. I asked myself if I had enough confidence to do it. James just laughed and said,
I guess you have no choice now. I couldn't believe it. I was actually going to return to the stage.
I wondered what the audience might think about an obviously disabled individual playing a character without a disability. James just said,
Who cares? Disability is a part of life anyway. There's no need to explain anything. I concluded he was right. It wasn't my appearance that mattered but the content of the play.
Too often individuals with disabilities are cast in TV and theatre to play the role of someone with a disability. This is also the case for many people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who may be offered limited or stereotyped roles. I believe that combating prejudice and discrimination can be achieved by not differentiating people with a disability from others in the community.
Performance night and possibilities
I was surprised I did not feel nervous on performance night. I was surrounded by a wonderful team of people which energised me. I didn't care what anyone thought; not the audience, nor any reviewers. I was just thrilled to be under the glare of the stage lights again. My teenage dream of continuing acting was real and it was happening. For the first time in ages I felt like myself and not just another person in a wheelchair. My world suddenly felt full of possibilities again. I was back.
Photo by Kate Buttery