Disabled Life, Film, Theatre

Mt Actor

I’m 40. A sometimes writer/director who hopes to make a feature film or tv series at some point in my life. I discovered I wanted to be a director at 24 when I went to film school because I’d being rejected from a radio course 3 times. However the drive behind film school was acting.

I have acted since primary school. I wrote plays, skits things that were performed in assembly’s all sorts. It has enabled me to meet a variety of people and certainly made me a better director. I couldn’t play sport  (Eventually I would play indoor cricket for 4 years) so I used acting as an outlet for energy and to fit in with other kids (I would never call actors normal and neither would they).  I went to Sydney’s theatrefest at 16 with Theatre Unlimited (a 70% disabled theatre group) and got to perform over there

My first break as it’s called was a ridiculous piece of luck that will never be repeated. A notice at college was looking for extras for a music video. I was in a wheelchair but hey it’s just extras, who cares. I go to the audition and am shown into a room. There’s a few girls with legs stretched up the wall, a few I know from school. I realise I’m the only guy and their all wearing dance gear. A head pops through the door, sees me, pops out. Two heads pop in eyes bulge and they disappear. This woman in a suit enters and wheels me out to a carpark where theres two guys a desk and a lamp.One guy is just staring at me. The other is telling me that they are really looking for dancers for a kids show called The Early Bird show. I tell them I have theatre experience. Suddenly the starer starts waving his arms around.

The song is called “It doesn’t bother me” and the concept involves a band made up of giant birds and people dancing in the rain, unbothered. BUT WAIT!!! Wavy hands has a new concept and it’s me in my wheelchair and there’s some skaters doing tricks and I do one in my chair and it’s cool and then I met some girls doing double dutch and blah blah. Essentially I meet people, they challenge me, I respond, we’re mates and then random people dance in the fountain at Albert Park.

They changed the concept of the video and I became the featured attraction. The song played once at 8:30am and was never seen again. It was directed by Grant Lahood and was one of his first paid jobs. I met up with him years later and he looked over a script of mine for me.

After this I performed in school plays and a few other things. Then after film school I decided to have a real crack at acting. I enrolled for an acting class, a good one, good reputation and I did well I thought. Then I made a phone call that just shattered me.

“Hi I was wanting to talk to someone about representation?”

“Sure, how much experience do you have and how old are you?”

I run off my cv I have about 20 years at this point. I tell them I’m disabled. There is a pause and a deep breath.

“You have a good voice, you sound young and a lot of experience….but your disability is really off putting.”.

I’m stunned. I don’t know what to say. I say thanks and goodbye as an automatic reply. I have never named the agent and I never will. But it was some pretty cold shit.

I can’t say I gave up on acting at that point but I became less confident in myself. Lots of  actors go through knock backs but I can’t change this, I can’t ignore it and I can’t improve it with a workshop.

To make myself feel better I decide to go audition for a local theatre production of Pride & Prejudice. I have played Puck in Midsummer nights dream.  A very physical role that I was given the opportunity to take on by Lexie Matheson. To this day it is my all time favourite role.

I prepare to audition for Mr Darcy and Mr Collins. When I go in for the audition there are 20 other actors. All in a circle. You step into the circle and read the scene, are given some direction, read again and are then asked if you’d like to be considered for other parts.

My turn in the circle. I read Darcy. No direction. I read Collins. No direction. No consideration for other roles. I end up waiting for an hour in the waiting room before being told I can go home.  The directors prejudice just kicked my pride in the nuts.

That’s almost it for theatre.

Almost.

I channeled the anger into my writing and redesign my feature script Defensability into a play. After much thought I realise I can’t direct a play. I asked my friend to direct it as she’s more experienced in theatre then I am. I do take on the role of Kelly and I do get to play a lead in something I wrote. I didn’t chase an agent though and I’m not sure I will now.

Acting for me is still something I like but writing and directing are my passions.

I hope to return to them soon.

The featured image was taken by Adam Baines on the set of my short film Rollmance.

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