Columbus Disabled Debuting New Play with Shopworks Theater Co.
by Erin Hoppe, Executive Director, VSA Ohio
The arts are for all. This is a belief held by artists, arts organizations, and advocates across the world. We want the arts infused in education, community, and the economy. But if you are one of the 1 in 5 people in America with a disability, can you access a performance or pursue a creative career? Sometimes.
This March two local organizations will change your perceptions about who artists are and what dis/ability means. VSA Ohio will partner with Shopworks Theatre Company to provide a Day of Arts for All.
Shopworks Theatre Company is dedicated to assisting adults with developmental disabilities create, develop, and star in their own theatre productions. Many adults with disabilities attend day habilitation jobs and vocational trainings. There are numerous visual art day-hab programs in Columbus and Ohio, but Shopworks is one of the few focused on the art of theatre. Founder Cary Johnston sought to bring theatre to people with disabilities and educate the community through performance. Five years ago Shopworks had just six members; today it is has about 30 participants. Their tagline is “Building lives one act at a time,” and it works. The participants make incredible personal and professional strides: improving communication, making friends, pursuing their passions, and giving back to the community.
VSA Ohio makes the arts and arts education more accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities. On Saturday, March 25, 2017, the family-friendly ninth annual Day of Arts for All in Westerville and will change your perception of dis/ability. The event is an opening ceremony for a 75-piece art exhibit, Accessible Expressions Ohio, and includes awards and a careers in the arts workshop. Shopworks Theatre Company will be the first theatrical performance to headline the event. VSA Ohio’s board member, Stephen Pleasnick, who is on the event planning committee noted, “This is a great opportunity for everyone to see a fun show and start thinking differently about disability. We can all make an effort to be more inclusive. The actors from Shopworks are dedicated to the craft and are sure to deliver a creative performance.”
The theatre troupe has developed a special mash-up performance titled, “A Beastly Tale of Kings and Queens (and One Very Special Mouse).” The stories of Beauty and the Beast and An American Tail will feature special guests, including the King from Hamilton, who will try to spoil the fun. Costumes for young people will be available for those who want to take part. One of Shopworks’ actors, Erich Smith, has also been selected to Emcee the entire event.
“I am really excited to have the opportunity to be a host at the event.” Smith said.
Activities for Day of Arts for All will take place at the Westerville Community Center at 11:00 am on Saturday March 25, 2017. Shopworks Theatre Company will take the stage at approximately noon. All activities are free and accessible. The full Accessible Expressions Ohio visual art exhibit is on display March 1 – 31, then it will tour the state to raise awareness. Anyone can vote for the People’s Choice Award (sponsored by the Arts Council of Westerville) through March 25. Shopworks Theatre Company will host part of the exhibit in their new, dedicated performance space in north Columbus later in the year.