Tune to A theatrical production fights inaccessibility with art

After years of being told to fit into the theater space, an Edmonton actor is making the space fit his unique story.

Carly Neis, a performer who has been involved in the local theater scene for 15 years, co-wrote Tune to A, a 70-minute show that will premiere at Azimuth Theater’s Expanse Festival this weekend.

The story centers on 13-year-old Ava, played by Neis, as she learns to navigate as a junior high school student with cerebral palsy.

“(It shows) the world as a teenager but also as a disabled teenager,” Neis told CTV News Edmonton.

“My previous experience with theater was more like I had to fit into everyone’s boxes of disabled actor and creator fitting into an able-bodied world, and I wanted to kind of subvert that “, she added.

For Neis, Tune to A represents his first foray into the professional theater scene. Although the show is aimed at young audiences, she hopes everyone will take something away.

“I find that working with children and presenting work for children are the most open-minded humans and they’re more likely to take what you say and let it resonate with them,” Neis said.

“I hope some kids will take some things away and learn, and I hope that continues into their adult lives,” she added. “It’s kind of how you navigate that line between friend and ally and when it’s time to be one or the other, or both at the same time.”

Neis was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, a disorder affecting his fine and gross motor skills. While she has already participated in productions, Neis decided to fight against the inaccessibility of art through art.

“As an adult, I haven’t had the chance to see myself, my body and the way I work on stage,” she said. “It’s just nice to be able to introduce this to kids at such a young age.

“Everyone deserves to be seen on stage. Everyone deserves to be seen on stage.”

She hopes the production will show other people with disabilities that there is a space for them in the art world and if not, inspire them to follow her example and do so.

“They know what they need,” Neis said. “They have the power to do it for themselves too.”

For tickets and more information, visit the Edmonton Fringe Theater website.

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