Last night, Aaron and I got fancied up and went to out to a play. He wore his suit jacket and a black tie and I changed out of my regular mom jeans into a green velvet dress. This was a big occasion for us.
This is the Point was playing at the PuSH Festival at the Cultch Historic Theatre in Vancouver. This play initially caught my eye because the two lead characters, Tony Diamanti and Liz MacDougall, are actors with cerebral palsy. They share stories about their own lives along with Dan Watson (and Christina Serra, represented by video), the parents of their nine-year old son Bruno, who also has CP.
Aaron doesn’t have CP; he has Down syndrome. But I’m not sure the difference in diagnosis matters that much – he lives the common experience of being disabled. He enjoys his grade 10 drama class at school and is becoming more interested in live theatre. A play featuring actors with disabilities is an unusual thing. (It shouldn’t be. But it is). I think it is my job as his mom to show him what is possible.
This is the Point is a real-life montage of stories, shared through live performances and video vignettes. It includes audience participation – we were encouraged to read Tony Diamanti’s words out loud as he pointed to letters on a communication board. I loved this invitation to be a part of Tony’s world – a contrast to the common notion that disabled people must always fit into our abled-bodied spaces.
Before the play began, Dan wandered about the audience handing out Hershey kisses. He then announced, ‘We do things at our own pace,’ to set the tone for the show.
The play is a peek behind the curtain of having a disability and being parents to a child with a disability. It gave space to stories that are told but not often heard or acknowledged by the general public. The play explained communication devices, talked about consent (or lack of it) and touched on abuse.
I think that stories can teach you something new or validate what you already know by creating a mirror for your own experience.
Here’s the something new from This is the Point: disabled people don’t always communicate as we do, they have a sense of humour, curse, are sometimes horny, have sex, fall in love and drink vodka. The question for me is: why should this be new to me? How does being surprised by this reflect on my own misconceptions about adults with disabilities? As human beings, we are all the same. And we are all different too.
This is the Point offered a commentary on my own experience as a parent too. Dan recounts a heart-breaking scene from his local playground, where the neighbourhood kids keep asking about Bruno, over and over again: What is wrong with him?
“Why do I have to keep explaining why I love my son?” asks Dan, exasperated in response.
I’ve felt that pain too. Playgrounds are an especially cruel place, a petri-dish for children whose parents who have never to bothered to explain about disability or kids who are different. At another point, Dan exclaims, ‘Suck it doctors!’ in reaction to the doctors who told him everything his son wouldn’t do. I almost stood up on my chair and cheered.
After the final applause, I leaned over to Aaron and asked what he thought. I wondered how it felt to see disabled people in a play.
“Good!” he said enthusiastically (although he hid behind his suit jacket during the ‘sexy’ scenes). He was eyeing the actors, who were all still on stage chatting with audience members.
‘Do you want to meet them?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘but come with me.’ ‘You go,’ I suggested, always eager to pull back from my hovering mother role.
He took a breath, marched up to Liz MacDougall and extended his hand. They looked at each other, smiled and shook hands.
‘Did you say anything?’ I asked when he returned. ‘No, I shook hands,’ he said. Somehow that handshake – the congratulations, the job well done, the nice to meet you, the thank you – was simply enough. Aaron does things in his own way and that is how it should be.
Thinking about the play, I thought how rare it is for Aaron to see himself reflected in anything other than fundraising or awareness campaigns. We need more stories like This is the Point in our increasingly polarized world. Not as ‘special’ stories, but as stories as a matter of course, on regular rotation, in the media, performing arts, literature and film. I promise that when I find them, I will amplify them. And you can too.
You see, if you open your eyes and bear witness to stories that are different from your own, you never know what you might discover (mostly about yourself). Bravo to the This is the Point cast and crew. You made your point and you made it well. xo.