S2/Ep 4: The CARE Coalition’s DNA Branch

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Well, hey everybody, my name is Adam Roberts and I am the CO founding artistic director of tilt performance group. I am coming to you from Austin, Texas where tilt is based. And we are a theatre company that is dedicated to shattering stereotypes about disability. And I am so thrilled to have been invited by my very good friend, Sheri Sanders, to be here to talk with folks today from Milliken Cares. And this is a discussion that has been ongoing with various different groups and organizations and universities. And as a musical theater vocal coach, I could not be more thrilled to be talking with students from Millikin today, and particularly with regard to this particular subject of disability and the performing arts. When I co founded Tilt seven years ago, now, I think, with two colleagues, we really set out to do something that was much smaller than what we have become, we really set out to start a theatre company that would function to provide a space where artists were sort of not isolated, where they could come together in community, we had a lot of artists who were joining our company who were graduating from various different post high school programs in the Austin area. And because we are in the capitol of Texas, this was the perfect place to be for bringing together all of these folks and these amazing artists and what over the seven years we have been very grateful to become has been a fully producing Theatre Company devoted to working with adults with disabilities, and also providing meaningful employment, because from the very beginning, all of our artists have been paid and compensated. And that has been very important to us. So I'm just really thrilled to be here and to have been working with Sheri on initiatives and on advocacy and on projects. And we're going to be continuing to do that. So thank you, Sheri, for having passed the mic to me today. I couldn't be more thrilled to be here with wonderful people who are going to change the world, and make arts and access a reality. So I'm here with Taylor, Rebecca, and Owen from Milliken cares. And this is the first time that I'm getting to meet these folks, and I am very excited. So let's just kind of go alphabetically, why don't we: Own, would you like to introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about you know, your background and what you're up to Millikin?
Hi, yes, I am Owen Peterson. I am a BFA acting major at Millikin University. I am in my junior year, and I am an actor who is on the autistic spectrum, specifically with Asperger's syndrome. And I think that covers it a bit. Well, we are going to dive deeper and deeper into those topics. So it is so awesome to meet you. Owen, thank you for being here today. This is fantastic. And how about if my schooling has been right here, Rebecca would be next in ABC.
Hi, my name is Rebecca Jaffe. And I am a junior musical theater major. And I am also co founder and vice president of Millikin C.A.R.E.. And that stands for creatives for artistic and realistic equity. And I am really passionate about this topic in particular because I have an auditory processing disorder. And I like to talk about it. Thank you. Well, we are going to get to talk about it.
06:19 That's incredible. So great to meet you and to get to talk with you, Rebecca. And finally, last but certainly not least, how about Taylor? Hi, I'm Taylor. I'm a BA theater and BA arts administration major at Millikin University. Obviously. I was born with Ectrodactyly, so I have two fingers on my right hand. It's a lot of fun. And yeah, I am the branch leader at Millikin care for the disability neurodivergent and accessibility branch so the DNA branch.
Fantastic. The DNA branch, Could not love it more. So I want to return for a second to Rebecca. And Rebecca, I would like to ask you, if you could talk a little bit more about Millikin Cares. You know, one of the things that is interesting to me in the acronym is the realistic part, realistic equity. And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the program generally, for folks who may not know much about it, and then also about those letters that make up C.A.R.E.? Yeah, yeah. So Millikin C.A.R.E., Our goal is really to advocate for marginalized groups within the creative community. And we're starting with the School of Theatre and Dance, and we want to branch out and we when we say artistic and realistic equity, I think of that as we're advocating within the arts, but we're also advocating for people in other aspects of their daily lives out in the real world.
absolutely incredible. And how have you seen ways so far... Well, let me ask you first, how long has C.A.R.E. at Millikin been in existence?So I actually helped to start it this summer. And, yeah, we've been in existence for about a semester. And we have done a lot. I'm really proud of this team, that specifically in the DNA branch, we have really begun a dialogue with the faculty about being aware of the struggles of being differently abled in the arts, which has led to a class being added to the curriculum next semester, about disability access in theater.
No way. Yes. With Dr. Samuel Yates. Yeah, I'm so excited.Oh, absolutely. Incredible. And I think we're gonna be talking with Dr. Yates on another program.Going. I'm so excited.Absolutely. Awesome. I love that. Now, one follow up question that I have for you is, okay, so if we're talking about a 30,000 foot view here, we've talked about branches. So there's the DNA branch when other branches are part of CA.R.E. Yes. So we also have the QI branch, that is our LGBTQIA focused branch. And then we also have our red branch, the racial and ethnic diversity branch. And then we also have the MHW branch, which is mental health and wellness.
Absolutely amazing. And I think we're going to return to that topic in particular, maybe a little bit later on during the podcast. But before we do that, I would love to go over to Taylor, and I would like to go to Taylor. Hi. So you are the branch manager, right, branch manager? Awesome. I love it. Okay, you are the leader of the DNA brands. I love it. Can you talk to me a little bit about what draws you to be in a leadership position in an advocacy position in this particular sector of the program?
Yeah, so my disability identity has definitely grown. Within the past four years or so, I grew up a really shy kid. But it wasn't until high school, I started to do theater. And that was kind of my thing to put myself out there and like, feel more comfortable in my body. And obviously, things aren't perfect to this day. But you know, through that, I have tried to push myself and go for these leadership opportunities. And I did a project my freshman year, kind of like a big paper you do your freshman year, it's called the Freshmen Focus. And I talked about disability in the arts. And I learned so much from that. And, you know, it didn't it wasn't even on my radar at that point that we could have a club at Millikin that celebrates these things. But then it came about and I was like, Oh my gosh, so yeah, so I jumped in. I said, this is absolutely what I want to do. You know, I partner with my hospital at Shriners, I've done that throughout my life. And and this is just like, the next thing I could do. And it's in
my, you know, specific interest of theater. So, yeah, and I jumped on, and it's been a blast. And from this, you know, I talked with Professor Gates and stuff and kind of thinking like, oh, maybe, you know, maybe Disability Studies is something I could do in life with theater. So we'll just, well, let's see how it goes. But right now I'm in this position, and I'm so grateful for it.
I couldn't love that more. And I have to know that everybody that is collaborating with you has to be so grateful for you as well, I just I, you know, one of the things that I think is really particularly special about this moment is that I think we're realizing an awful lot as a society and a lot as an industry. And we have a lot of intersectional opportunities as C.A.R.E demonstrates, as we've just heard about the four or five different branches of care, the intersectionality of all this coming together is a zeitgeist, but one that we want to be forever. Let's write, that is awesome. I love it. And I love to ask, Owen:, So you are a junior, you mentioned, talk to me a little bit about how you came to be involved in this program. Because you know, it's something that didn't exist until a semester ago. So you've been through two years of school as a major in the arts department. How has this you know, even in a semester, how has this sort of affected your experience?
So, as somebody who is on the autistic spectrum in theater, I feel like I, myself is very underrepresented within theatre.. So it's like, very few people on the spectrum are encouraged to do the arts because you have the stereotypes of the higher functioning people on the spectrum, being like super smart in STEM fields. So in my experiences, it's always been a bit of a struggle as someone in the arts on the spectrum to flourish. But things got better at Milikin since, like compared to high school, but ever since I joined C.A.R.E., like ever since I heard that this was going to be a thing,I knew this was something I needed to do, because my main mission for becoming an actor, is to be the role model that I never had for people on the spectrum. So as soon as I hopped in C.A.R.E., I was really excited about it, I, in fact, I advertised it so much to my friends, and I just recruited people. And I knew that this was going to be something that was going to make a lot of important changes within Millikin.
That's wonderful. And I think, you know, oh, and as you one of the things that you mentioned, that really resonates with me, having come into, you know, a city in Austin, where there were various different performing arts organizations that sort of centered around disability, but none that was doing theatrical production. You know, one of the things that really came up for us when we founded TILT was sort of exactly what you just said, there was not a representation, there was not a... there was not a community where folks whether they were from within the disability community or not, could come together, and to experience together what that magic of rehearsal and performance and creative expression is. And although we may not even have necessarily had that in our mind, it went where it wanted to go. And it took.. it took off on its own. And that was a really special thing. And we were able to, to harness that. And so a question that I have for each of you, because this is something that comes up for us at Tilt all the time: we’ll often get teachers who really want to provide better access, for example, in high schools or in colleges, for their students, we have folks who are directors who want to create a more inclusive space in their professional productions. And often they'll come to us and they'll say, Can you give us some guidance about how to first approach and that could mean recruit, or that could mean work with or meet or direct or collaborate with any of those things? How to first approach an artist, a performing artist who identifies as having a disability. And so I would love to ask, Rebecca, could you talk a little bit about how would you answer that question where you're at in your career and in your life right now, if someone came to you and said, Hey, Rebecca, can you give me some advice? I'd love to make a more inclusive space for performing artists in my theater in my dance troupe, in my orchestra, what would be your first piece of advice to them right now?
Hmm, well, I know that..I feel like dialogue is always for the first step, starting a conversation with the people that are right there. I feel like as artists and as leaders, we tend to steer towards thinking about the bigger picture. but I feel like you have to think about the people first, look at who's in your community right now, right there in front of you. And talk to them, ask them questions I would love. If people would ask me more what I needed, and recognize that there's a disability there. I feel like a lot of times, it's more about the fact that I don't seem like I have one. And I feel like it's about asking questions. So yeah, I would love if someone came up to me and started asking what I needed just like a human being. Just ask. 17:32
So I love something that you just said was about invisible, what we might call invisible disability, right? That's a term that sometimes gets used: invisible disability. So I'm gonna play a little devil's advocate here. And I'm going to say, hey, Rebecca, how was I supposed to know? What is your response to that?
Well, I tend to mention it in every first conversation I have with the person,I guess. But I do know that there are a lot of people out in the world who aren't as open about it. And I guess that's a chance to think about why they might not be open about it. Have you created an environment where you talk about disabilities in the first place? Whether you know that your students might have it or not? Have you created an environment where people are comfortable talking about it?
Absolutely. Have you given that opportunity? Right, the safe space? And and that is something that all of us can initiate with some training, with some education. I don't think anybody expects any of us to just be organically good at it. But that's what we're here to be doing. Right? Yeah, I know, that's a big part of the Millikin C.A.R.E. program. I know, that's a big part of Sheri’s mission. It's a big part of my mission. And I think that we're all sort of creating that environment together. So I would love to ask the same question, because I think that this is going to probably have a different hue for everyone. of Taylor, if someone came and asked you that question, what do you think your initial response at this point in your life might be?
Yeah, I think, especially for like college programs, or you know, even higher education, but that is higher education, I'm silly. Is... creating the space as early on as possible. And being I think, like Rebecca said, unapologetic about it, like, you know, if you are recruiting students, these students want to be able to see themselves in a program. You know, our, our DNA branch is very, very small. And that's okay. But we are here, you know, and, and we are just a little branch of visibility that maybe,
you know, someone, someone like us can see that and feel more moved to audition for a school like Millikin. So, yeah, so I think being unapologetic about it and just learning by the day. And, and, and like we said about, you know, visibility, my, my disability is more visible, but it's not actually as physical. Because my hand, you know, my hand is in my pocket, or it's in my sleeve. So, I've known people before that haven't noticed, like, the first month they met me. Um, but something that I liked, that Rebecca talked about was, yeah, open dialogue, and, and just having that in place, before you feel the need to put it in, if that makes sense. You know, you don't need to have anyone that, you know, alliance with these things before you put learning in place. So yeah, just early learning and unapologetic learning because, frankly, the world is changing day by day. And you just need to go with the flow.
Well, and I think, for example, about how we all are,or we should be conscientious about...just for an example, the physical safety of our theater spaces, you know, we want to make sure that the that the lighting rigs have safety cables on them, we want to make sure... now, the chances that that light might fall without the safety cable might not happen, right. But we have
to create the safe space for every person to be there, and to know that they are safe coming in, regardless of whether we meet that person, know it or not, you know that that's something that I think we're all looking to do and I love that answer. Thank you for that.
Yeah, absolutely. And that goes beyond just you know, the students in the program. It goes for you know, patrons of you know, seeing these shows, you know, you got to make make room for these people coming in and both visible and non visible and I think Millikin C.A.R.E.,’s that's our kind of next step for next semester is looking at what we have currently. And how can we make this better? How can we make this better for this person that wants to come in and see a show? So, yeah.
Well it’s incredible because it's that meeting place, right? Where we meet at the proscenium, or where we meet in the black box, where we meet in the swimming pool, whatever, wherever we meet to do theater, we want to make sure that people are able to meet in an equitable way. Right. And I think that goes beyond the stage, exactly, as you said. absolutely incredible. And Owen, if someone came up to you and asked that same question, would you have a response that is different from your peers here?
Yes, I’m someone who firmly believes that there is a right and a wrong way to do representation of differently abled people within theater. While Taylor hit the nail on the head for accessibility of everything, in terms of actually performing in the shows, sometimes I feel like a lot of programs out there, particularly in the high school level, sort of when it comes to the differently abled people within their programs, tend to have a bit of tokenism with it. Like back in my high school experiences, everybody who was differently abled, they would be relegated to small featured roles that would not appear in many of the
group numbers. If anyone were to want to join theater, they should be able to have a chance to grow and flourish with the rest of the people involved. And I firmly believe that there really aren't enough programs that are realizing this.
Sure, it's not just about creating a literal space to fill, right, it's about creating a true equitable collaboration. And that's why I love that the word equity is in C.A.R.E.,. And also, I'm for those who are listening who may not know, the Actors Equity Association, the professional union of actors, equity is literally what we refer to Actors Equity Association as, and so if equity is, you know, part of the name, it needs to be part of the game. And I think that that is what we're all here to talk about and address. Now, one of the things that most people are, that I need to get concerned about when they come to interact with our company, say they're coming to be a guest artist, or say they're coming to be someone, a designer who's coming to the team who perhaps has not worked with, you know, a significant number of folks with disabilities. Typically, they are very concerned about : What can I say? What do I say? What's the vocabulary I should use? And so it's very interesting, because what I have noticed is, particularly in our earlier years, where we weren't sort of addressing those things as readily, one of the things we noticed was that, that people would not interact, they would just choose not to interact, because they were so afraid of offending, right, afraid of using the wrong word. So you'd kind of have the designers over there, and the company members over here, or the guest artist, and no one wanted that. But there was such a fear of a fence, particularly with regard to language. So Owen, I'd like to start with you this time. This is a very individual thing, I think, in many ways, right? Owen, for you, where does language fall in all of this?
For me, as long as it's nothing overtly, like offensive, like, use of the R word or something like, as long as the aim isn't to demean or belittle. I feel like there's a lot of issues out there where it's like, people think the term disabled is a bad thing. But in reality, it's just another term. And along the same lines of autistic people are so afraid of that word, because of the dialogue that so many organizations have made. In... well wrongfully at that point. But I definitely feel like there's a lot more leniency than what people would think.
And I would say in my experience, I would agree with that. And I think one of the things that when that I'm reminded of hearing you say that is for so long, everyone has talked about person first language which is, you know, great the actor, you know who with autism, but you know, recently, identity first language as an option has become something that is really entering the conversation, because there are some folks who prefer to be said, the disabled actor or the disabled singer, or the autistic actor, right. And so I think that even for people to know, you know, we, we ask, we have the communication that's, that's the thesis of the conversation, I think it's, you know, we, we all want to have the dialogue, personally, I have a vision disorder. That's my disability, it's a progressive optic nerve atrophy. So I had to stop driving about 16 years ago or so. Right. And so it's interesting, because, again, to some degree, I kind of have, I would say, I fall maybe, on the spectrum, a bit of, you know, Taylor's camp where I have a.. I have a disability that people know about, but they wouldn't necessarily know about, right. And so, I think that it's interesting, because, you know, we have some company members who say, they would prefer just, you know, the blind actor, or the actor who's blind, or most of them, say it's interchangeable for them. But I think that I think that the idea that there's any one way is the biggest obstacle perhaps, and I'm interested to know, Taylor, what do you have to say about that?
Yeah, I mean, for me, personally, you know, I've, I've thankfully grown with my disability, and prefer it to be shown and talk...not talked about, but you know, in the forefront of me being in a room, because it's something I'm proud about. And I think it's it, a lot of what I do is, you know, advocacy for that. But it is hard and there is no right or wrong answer. It's all individualistic. But, I personally have kind of grown into this to where I feel more and more comfortable with my disability, it's actually something I really don't worry about most days. And I'd like to go into the real world, as I say, the theatre business world with my disability forefront. But I understand that that's really not the experience of everyone. And it is hard, it's very difficult to know, you know, what a person's experience is, especially if you're seeing them for the first time in a room. So I think, you know, the first day someone comes in, umm... it's hard. I think that it's good to wait out and see if they address it first. If not just, you know, comforted in the best way, possibly, like, hey, like, I see you. I think that's the most, you know, comfortable thing I would feel if I walked into a room being like, Hey, I acknowledged this, I see you as a person. I see you as a person that has this, um, let me know if there's anything I can do, or you just take the reins. So I think just taking a step back and acknowledging, but also, just letting go is the way I would approach that. Yeah.
Kind of like theater itself, isn't it? Letting? Letting go? And so Rebecca, I have the same question. Finally, for you. What is your take on that?
So I feel like, Well, for one what Owen said, the R word is off limits. If you say the R word, you are not my friend. And I have no respect for you, you should know at that point not to say it, just a thing to say. But beyond that. I am not really offended if you use the incorrect term for me. What offends me is when you're not open to correction, really, people talk a lot about the
idea of being canceled. That's not canceling. I'm not canceling you. I'm giving you an opportunity to learn more about me, because there's so many different terms that we use, some people like person first, some people like to identify more with their disability, some people like the term differently abled, and... be open to all that, and if someone corrects you, that is your moment to decide whether you're going to show that you respect them or not.
Well and just what you said. I think it's being open to correction and also understanding that it is not a monolith, like any group of people it is not. It is not to say that every person will also want this, so you need to be ready for correction, and communication with every individual with whom you work. Yeah, there's nothing wrong with correction. Just be open to it because it's fine. I want to hear people's thoughts and I want to be able to teach people more about myself. It's a good
opportunity for dialogue.
Yes, absolutely. Now... Yes, go ahead!
(Sheri) Now, I remembered what I was gonna ask! I feel like I could get it into like a little piece.. But I think it's like, you know, I know sometimes people say, you know that I'm very, very transparent and very open. But in that way I get to say something like, you know, Rebecca, tell me about your processing disorder, like, what does that look like for you? You know, it's in the, tell me all about it. Taylor, you know, tell me about your limb difference. How you know, what, were you born with it? What do you know, you just, you just, it's about being curious about about people. And I think when you're curious about them, then they automatically feel like, Oh, this is a safe place for me. So it's being in a place of doing your homework. Yes. And finding out what kind of language people are using, and then show up and be with the person that you're with? And then be curious about them in the space. That's all Yeah. 100%.
I love what you said about curiosity, because that's really the key. I love when people are curious about my experience. And there's nothing wrong with curiosity and just being open. (ADAM) Absolutely. And I think that that is certainly from my experience, that is true for most any performer certainly, right. When we get on stage, we want to be vulnerable, we're asked to be vulnerable, we're putting ourselves in a vulnerable place. And I think that that, that, you know, is something that that's and we are open to, you know, I would love to ask a question of Taylor, we touched on this earlier, and I'd love to circle back around to it. So again, the intersectionality of the of the different branches, one being mental health and wellness. So, you know, for folks who have never been through a performing arts training program, in a university situation or any other situation, it's probably worthwhile to note that there can be some intense moments, you know, where we are portraying characters from very different lived experiences and very different settings and, and being asked to sort of code shift an awful lot. And that can kind of be a taxing, emotional and mental experience. Now, we're coming into this situation as also an actor who has traditionally been marginalized or on the fringes, right? How do you see these two branches? Sort of, I guess, in a practical sense, but also just in the world intersecting?
Yeah, I definitely see them intersect. And here, we encourage folks to dip into, you know, different branches, you don't have to be sectioned to one branch, nor do you have to have the criteria, if you would say to be in a branch. But yeah, I definitely think they intertwine because it can be very taxing as someone who is different in the theatre world, because really, you don't know who you're going to work with. You just don't know. And I think that the community that is built through the mental health and wellness branch is beautiful for that, you know, we're, we're all learning how to advocate for each other. So yeah, so we encourage folks to join different branches of DNA, whether they feel they fit the criteria or not, or just want to stand and be an ally. Um, but as far as mental health wellness goes with our branch, um, it's just a part of the puzzle, you know, these situations that we as theater folks have to deal with, that are taxing that we can look to the mental health and wellness branch and be like, hey, I need a hand or just a puzzle piece to celebrate each other. It's just another outlet that we can use
to form this community and form this advocacy. So that other people can look over and, you know, be jealous, be like, hey, I want to be a part of that. I think that's how, you know, I don't think it'll ever be a perfect world. But I think that's how it starts: our groups realizing, you know, we are perfectly able to do things and we can do them awesome. Awesome-ly.. Let's do it and make others jealous and make others want to join. I want to be able to, you know, be out in the world someday. Do what I do to advocate for my cause and others and have people be like, Wow, that is so cool. Can I, you know, jump on your train Taylor? And I’ll be like Absolutely, Yeah, you can, and then we just build a big train, and we all ride on the train.
(SHERI) What I love about that Taylor, is that I feel like in the industry, that that will be a part of what makes somebody hireable. Are they... Do they do advocacy work? Are they you know, are they trained in Mental Health First Aid? Do they know how to be there for people when tricky things happen? Do they know how to stand up for people, you know, that it isn't just “behave yourself, so they don't think you're a problem,” It's kind of like, are you somebody who can come in and keep the place safe. So there aren't any problems.It makes you marketable.
(TAYLOR) And knowing too, that there is, you know, there's no perfect advocate, you know, you don't have to be doing all these things, putting all these things on your shoulders to show that you're a supporter every single day of your life, you know, you can do it in your everyday, you know, just words and you know, niceness to one another. That's advocacy. So, you know, learning what advocacy means to you how you want to show it in any sort of way. is good in my book, and I feel as though it’s good… in everyone in this call’s book. Oh, yeah. For sure. Yeah.
(Adam:) So advocacy, so Owen, what is a good advocate in your mind, in this context, in this situation, or any?
In my mind, what a good advocate is, is someone who is for us without inadvertently or purposely making it about them, like, one, one phrase that we have within the autistic community is nothing about us without us. And, to me, what that means is, you can't be an advocate for somebody without uplifting the voices of the person you're advocating for. And I feel like that applies to really any marginalized group that you can advocate for. Like, we see it all the time with, with, with allies within the Black Lives Matter movement, we see it within advocates for really anything. And to me, a good advocate needs to be able to back up the people when they need it.
Yes, yes. Back up the people when they need it. I love that. Love it.
That includes when... either when somebody asks you for support or, and staying alert and keeping your eye on the people in the room, that that is part of your job of being in the room is taking care of the people who are not as privileged as you and have not had things go so easy. So it's like, we're in the room for you. You know. And so that's why I want you to know that, like, I think that that ally ship looks like both of those things. Right?
Yes. So exciting. Yeah. And I have one final question for Taylor. And my question for Taylor is, what is your vision? foR the ideal world of access in the arts? That is like a doctoral dissertation. I know.
That's okay. I mean, I would love to see everyone be able to, you know, join and hold hands and be happy. And that's just not realistic. But I would love to see, you know, the ideal world be... where, you know, disability is visible. But it's not a barrier. You know what I mean? So we can have, you know, actors with different abilities just be in roles just on the day to day like, and workers, you know, tech people that find new ways to work with their abilities, you know, have people just work and not be scrutinized for it. You know, I think the more we see that the more that's visible to, you know, people in our community and out, the more it's going to be less of like, a hot button topic, like you said, like someone in the room. We don't know how to approach them. I think that would become less and less. And I think that's kind of the ideal. I think the ideal is to have it just in general conversation in general work. I would love to see that.
Yeah, as would I, and I think we I think we will. Because I think our future is bright with this generation of people who are coming up to make it that way.
Yeah. And I have the same question for Rebecca. Yeah. Can
you repeat that question?
Sure can!
What is your vision for an ideal future in access in the performing arts?
So I feel like right now, we're in a period of transition. Because the arts, that type of environment has often been a place where I feel like I have to hide my disability. And I'd like to see a future where not only can I be honest about it, but I'm also asked about it and encouraged to express it in my art, and that it's recognized for what it is. And I just want to see a world where everyone is supporting actors with disabilities and wanting to make them the strongest people and actors that they can be.
Absolutely wonderful, just like we would for any actor, right? It's a collaborative, it's a collaborative field that we're in and Owen, to you. What is your vision, for an ideal future, where access in the arts are concerned?
My ideal vision would definitely have to be that anyone can be anything, like one thing I've learned in my experience of training at Millikin is that acting should not be about fitting a specific type. It should be whatever the person in question can best embody, like... there's a wide range of kinds of roles I have yet to explore. And I don't know what would suit me yet. And I want to be able to explore that as an actor on the spectrum. I want others to be able to explore that as actors who are differently abled. And I want it not as a means of promotion or tokenism. I want it as a means of uplifting.
Uplifting. I think that is certainly what I am leaving this conversation with today. And inspiration. And being inspired. Right, being motivated. It's so incredible, and it's going to happen. And I want to ask Sheri, because I can't read the chat when the chat comes up.
44:40 (SHERI)
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Adam, I have a question I want to ask you. So I don't know if I even knew that you were working with a vision... I don't know. What would you call it? Low Vision? You're working with low vision vision? Yeah. Yeah. Um, how do you read music? So well, with low vision? Was there something that you feel like did you develop an extra magic power? I just wanted to ask before because it inspires me so much to see somebody do the level of, of artistry, that you work on both being in service in artistry, but also just, you know, as a person who's here to uplift all artists all around, you read music all day long.
45:29 (ADAM
I do.Sure! So, you know, for me, there is only... my disorder is an optic nerve atrophy. So there is only so much that can be done in terms of correcting with lenses. And even with lenses, the correction is pretty high in numbers, so what I need to do is find ways to adapt my circumstances. This is one of the reasons I love playing a grand piano, I always tell people, I'm not being a diva, when I asked for a grand piano, the music rack actually pools very close to where your face is, and for me
usually enlarging something doesn't help a whole lot, maybe a tiny bit, but for me, it's the distance from my face. So I have to for example, when I play a keyboard, what I'll usually do is I will sort of put the music stand at a 45 degree angle and pull it up over the keys, right, so then it just has to be weighted at the bottom so you know somebody doesn't trip over or whatever, which has happened. But, you know, just pulling it close enough to my face so that I can see the music. When I conduct, usually it means just having as much of it memorized as possible. Because you know, you can't.. it's I could never get the music close enough to my face to also be able to conduct in a pit. So it just truly is knowing it well enough that I could look down and see something that was a little, you know, blurry, but I didn't know what it meant if necessary, but really, I just know it well enough, to, for all intents and purposes, not to have the score.
47:00 (SHERI)
Well, you blow my mind. And it just also reminds me of all of the cool things that come from having to figure out how to make it work for you. Because now at this point, I feel like we can then all take that and help everybody else figure out how to make it easier for them or maybe not.
47:31 (ADAM)
Right, that's what it's for. That's what it's for, you know, and I think it's, it's for saying, look, like, you know, we can all do, we can all do all of this, you know what I mean? There's very little, I mean, there, you know, 5% of things that maybe for safety reasons we shouldn't be doing if we have this. But truly, aside from that, there is just, you know, we can all be involved in this together. And that's the beautiful thing, in some ways about, about that nexus of knowing and not knowing because, you know, it is, in many ways, irrelevant if the space is created.
48:06 (SHERI)
That's right. That's right. And I think that when we come back, or when we get back to where we were, I don't think we'll be able to get back to where we were until the space is safe, right? Until that is the way people are existing, no matter how many... how much money people have, or how badly we want to act. We're just not going to allow it anymore. Absolutely. So that's the wonderful thing is that we, we can't go back to before.
48:37 (ADAM SINGS)
“We can never go back to before!”
48:45 (SHERI)
So listen, I just want to take a second to thank Brittany and the Broadway Podcast Network for letting me do a pass the mic and I just want to say Adam, thank you so so much for being such an incredible facilitator and a great leader in our industry. It is even for people on Adam, will you thank these incredible folks from Millikin for being a part of our lives.
Oh my gosh, will I ever! Thank you so much to Rebecca and to Taylor and to Owen. This has been the best hour of my week. It is such an amazing thing to get to talk with fellow artists and fellow actors who are going to be the change makers in this next generation of the industry as it moves out of an unprecedented time for itself. So I think we can take this as a charge and a rallying cry and a time to make those voices heard.
(Taylor, Rebecca, Owen, Sheri, Adam)
Amen. Hallelujah. Yes.
Thanks, everybody.
Hey, everybody, it's Sheri Sanders. Thanks for listening to this episode of cause and effect. Cause and Effect is part of the Broadway Podcast Network produced by Dori Bernstein and Alan Seales, edited by Kyle Moore and music by Courtney Bassett and Andrew Swackhammer of Starbird and the Phoenix. Special thanks to Steven Ferezyi. Thank you. And if you like what you hear: Don't forget to subscribe and rate this podcast wherever you stream. You should also follow me on Instagram, @rocktheaudition, and to learn more, visit vpn.fm backslash Cause an Effect. Peace!

Meet the DNA Branch of Millikin CARE! Disability, Neurodivergence and Accessibility is literally what DNA STANDS FOR.

Please enjoy this JUICY #passthemic. It’s facilitated by RTA Company Member Adam Roberts, creator of The Award-winning Tilt Theatre in Austin and members of the Millikin CARE Coalition’s NDA Branch, Rebecca, Owen and Taylor and you’ll get great tools for leading with a Disability, as well as how to holds space for the some very necessary leadership!

  • You can Find Adam Roberts at @tiltperformance
  • You can find Rebeeca at @rebeccajaffeactor
  • You can find Owen at @owenmpetersonactor
  • You can find Taylor at @x.taylormade.x
  • You can Find Millikin CARE at @millikin.care
  • You can find OCU CARE at @ocu_care

You can find the First Revised Second Edition at http://www.rock-the-audition.com & find the Rock The Audition Team on Insta @rocktheaudition

Find more info about the podcast via http://bpn.fm/CauseAnEffect

Produced by Dori Bernstein, Alan Seales, and Brittany Bigelow. Edited by Kyle Moore.


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