Theater for All Comes to Life | The New York Community Trust
January 30, 2019   |   By The New York Community Trust
Theater for All Comes to Life
Three actors on stage

ACTORS’ WOKSHOP: Emma Lemanski, Megan Simox, and Patrick Tombs talk shop in a program at Queens Theatre for actors with physical disabilities.

Helping those with disabilities on stage and off

As a leading disability funder, we applaud the City’s first-ever cultural plan, released in 2017, which called for more support and opportunities for artists and audiences with disabilities. The next year, Queens Theatre created its Theater for All program with $150,000 from The Trust.

Vincent D'Onofrio teaching a class

MASTER CLASS: Vincent D’Onofrio teaches a master class for Kerry McMenamin and others in the Theatre For All program. Photo by Ari Mintz

The program boosts the technical and auditioning skills of early career performers with disabilities in an intensive, two-week workshop. Participants train with professional actors, some of whom are disabled themselves. Afia Fields, who completed the program, appreciated that the actors gave in-depth feedback. “All three teachers I had were raw, and that’s what I like,” she said. “Don’t pat me on the back—push my skills and challenge me.”

The program also connects participants with auditions and job opportunities through networking events with casting directors and producers.

For audience members with disabilities, some Queens Theatre performances now offer American Sign Language interpretation, audio descriptions, and open captioning, as well as large-print and Braille playbills. At other performances, lighting and sound are adjusted for people with sensory disorders or those on the autism spectrum.

I felt accepted and taken seriously. Not only do I feel more confident and trusting of my choices as an actor, I feel more confident and trusting of myself as a person.” —Emma Lemanski, workshop participant

At a community foundation like ours, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. We regularly increase the scope and reach of donors’ legacy gifts by combining their interests with those of other donors. For this grant, we used the David Warfield Fund, which aids New Yorkers with visual disabilities, and the Adel and Leffler Families’ Fund for Queens, which supports activities and organizations in that borough.

Learn more about our work to bolster the arts

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