Through these efforts, The Apothetae and The Lark, with the aid of Steering Committee members Claudia Alick (Community Producer, Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Shirley Fishman (Resident Dramaturg at La Jolla Playhouse), Jack Reuler (Artistic Director at Mixed Blood Theatre), and Howard Sherman (Senior Strategy Director and Interim Director at Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts), will provide an unprecedented platform of support for Disabled artists. The needs for a higher and more intentional level of advocacy were articulated during conversations that occurred during the first national convening of Disabled artists and the larger theater community, held by The Apothetae and The Lark in May of 2015, and out of which this Initiative was borne. While topics of equity, access, and inclusion in the theater have recently gained increasing prevalence, Disability is only just beginning to enter the conversation. By affording Disabled writers the space and resources required to take the necessary risks, The Fellowship aims to aid in the generation of work with the power to revolutionize the cultural dialogue surrounding Disability.
“We are an incredibly rich and diverse community with many stories to tell.” says Gregg Mozgala, Founding Artistic Director of The Apothetae. “The Disabled community needs space to nurture its talent and experiment.”
To raise awareness and support for The Apothetae and Lark Initiative, The Lark and The Apothetae will produce “Telethon!” This virtual, theatrical event will take place throughout the month of September, and will consist of regular posts on The Lark’s blog. Each week, The Apothetae and The Lark will publish new videos created by members of the community, inspired by The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. This annual broadcast, held from 1966 until 2010, was hosted by actor/comedian Jerry Lewis to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). The event has faced criticism not only for using Disabled people as a fundraising tool, but also for focusing the public's attention on medical cures to "normalize" Disabled people instead of addressing issues like providing accessible buildings, transportation, and employment opportunities. The MDA Telethon is an important part of Disability History in the 20th and early 21st Century United States. The Apothetae and The Lark see this as an opportunity for Disabled artists to begin to reclaim agency and ownership around their stories, images, and bodies. Confirmed participants so far include Ryan Haddad, David Harrell, Anita Holander, Gregg Mozgala, Evan Ruggerio, Pamela Sabaugh, and Jessica Yates.
“The Lark and The Apothetae are ready to launch this initiative as soon as we have funds in place,” says Lloyd Suh, Director of Artistic Programs at The Lark. “We’re hoping that by announcing our plans in this way, it will help us to identify key partners who are interested in contributing to this important work."
As both organizations continue to raise the profile and support for this program, The Apothetae and The Lark encourage anyone interested in getting involved or staying updated to sign up for The Apothetae and Lark Initiative’s dedicated email list.
To watch the “Telethon!” videos, visit www.larktheatre.org/blog regularly during September to check for new videos, post your thoughts in the comments section, and join the conversation.
Finally, for those interested in getting involved with “Telethon!” and The Apothetae and Lark Initiative, there is also the option to donate by visiting www.larktheatre.org and entering “The Apothetae” in the “Notes Regarding Gift” section of The Lark’s donation form.