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Drama Desk Panel

Working actors with disabilities enumerate their challenges and successes.

By: Patrick Christiano

November 12, 2018:  The Drama Desk hosted an informal discussion with professional actors with disabilities moderated by Katy Sullivan, who was recently seen in the Cost of Living at MTC and just happens to be the record holder in the 100 meters at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Participants on the panel at Ripley-Grier Studios in midtown Manhattan were Christine Bruno, Shannon DeVido, Stephanie Gould, John Christopher Jones, Gregg Mozgala, Jamie Sanders, and Ali Stroker. They presented a stimulating look at the world they function in, which is predominately populated by people without disabilities. They face the same challenges of other minorities, adapting to a society that is different from their learned experience.

John Christopher Jones, Jamie Sanders, Stephanie Gould, Gregg Mozgala, Katy Sullivan, Christine Bruno, Front Row – Ali Stroker, Shannon DeVido

Working actors with disabilities enumerate their challenges and successes.

By: Patrick Christiano

November 12, 2018:  The Drama Desk hosted an informal discussion with professional actors with disabilities moderated by Katy Sullivan, who was recently seen in the Cost of Living at MTC and just happens to be the record holder in the 100 meters at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Participants on the panel at Ripley-Grier Studios in midtown Manhattan were Christine Bruno, Shannon DeVido, Stephanie Gould, John Christopher Jones, Gregg Mozgala, Jamie Sanders, and Ali Stroker. They presented a stimulating look at the world they function in, which is predominately populated by people without disabilities. They face the same challenges of other minorities, adapting to a society that is different from their learned experience.

Katy Sullivan , Jamie Sanders, Stephanie Gould, Ali Stroker

As a result, they face tremendous roadblocks to success, which demands they become their own advocates to function in an artistic environment. Not seeing themselves reflected on film and TV, further complicated their dilemma, which propelled them to take chances. The outcome, a new unique archetype, that is still constantly evolving to be their authentic selves.

Actors with disabilities are a large minority in the theater community. As artists they must wear two hats just to exist. The challenge to appear normal while coping with their disability is a never-ending process, a relentless juggling act of how to be from moment to moment. Should they be themselves, or hide? Their struggle is to adapt to the world and its attitudes about them.

Producers are concerned they will pull focus and confuse the audience. Actors with disabilities must continue to educate the community as teachers in a nuanced dialogue. They want to be known for their work, not their disability, to be seen for who they are, while working to change people’s minds.  They have come a long way with their success, but there is much work to be done.

Photography: Barry Gordin

Charles Wright, John Christopher Jones, Jamie Sanders, Stephanie Gould, Gregg Mozgala, Katy Sullivan, Christine Bruno, David Barbour – Front Row – Ali Stroker, Shannon DeVido
Jamie Sanders, Stephanie Gould, Moderator Katy Sullivan, Ali Stroker
Gregg Mozgala, Shannon DeVido, Katy Sullivan, Christine Bruno
Ali Stroker, Shannon DeVido
Jose Solis, Gregg Mozgala
William Wolf, Isa Goldberg
Patrick Christiano, Katy Sullivan

Shannon DeVido, John Christopher Jones , Christine Bruno, Gregg Mozgala
Christine Bruno, Gregg Mozgala
Shannon DeVido, John Christopher Jones
Christine Bruno, Gregg Mozgala
Ali Stroker, Shannon DeVido, John Christopher Jones
Stephanie Gould, Ali Stroker, Shannon DeVido
Katy Sullivan, Hamie Sanders, Stephanie Gould, Ali Stroker, Shannon DeVido
Katy Sullivan, Jamie Sanders
Shannon DeVido, John Chrisopher Jones
Katy Sullivan, Jamie Sanders, Stephanie Gould, Ali Stroker

Jose Solis, Ali Stroker
Charles Wright, Jose Solis, Ali Stroker
Katy Sullivan, Jamie Sanders, Stephanie Gould
Katy Sullivan
Katy Sullivan, Jamie Sanders

Moderator Katy Sullivan
Panelist Jamie Sanders
Panelist Stephanie Gould
Panelist Ali Stroker
Panelist Shannon DeVido
Panelist John Christopher Jones
Panelist Christine Bruno
Panelist Gregg Mozgala