‘Everyone deserves to be seen on stage’: Local production fights inaccessibility with art

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

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

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

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

“My previous experience with theatre has been more so that I’ve had to fit into everyone else’s boxes of the disabled actor and creator fitting in an able-bodied world, and I kinda wanted to flip that on its head,” she added.

For Neis, Tune to A represents her first venture into the professional theatre scene. While the show is geared for young audiences, she hopes everyone takes something away.

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

“My hope is that some kiddos take some things away and learn, and hopefully, it carries on to their adult life,” she added. “It’s kind of how you navigate that line between a friend and an 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 her fine and gross motor skills. While she’s been involved in productions before, Neis decided to fight the inaccessibility of art with art.

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

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

She hopes the production shows others with disabilities that space for them does exist in the world of art and if it doesn’t, inspire them to follow her lead and make it.

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

For tickets and more information, visit the Edmonton Fringe Theatre’s website

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