Theater Breaking Through Barriers, formerly Theater By The Blind, has been working for 29 years to develop blind and low vision talent for the theater, television and film. With great pride, the company has just changed its name to reflect its commitment to include all artists with disabilities in its work, onstage, backstage, in the office and in the audience.
As baby boomers age, more and more Americans will be dealing with disability. 52,000,000 of us, 18%, already do. Yet only 2% of characters on television exhibit a disability and only 0.5% are allowed to speak. TBTB needs to get the reality of our rich, independent lives in front of audiences.
Last year TBTB started intensive work to achieve this goal. The first show of the 2007 season, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featured an actress in a wheelchair, which The New York Times said added “a most delightful extra layer of meaning in the production.” The second production, The Rules of Charity, was written by John Belluso, a playwright with a disability. The play’s action centered on a man using a wheelchair; the company of six integrated a low vision actress and an actor with Cerebral Palsy as well as a stage manager working from a wheelchair. The Times called it a “dark, scalding play [in] a sharp New York premiere.”
TBTB’s work to become the home base theater for all people with disabilities – actors and audiences – has received generous support from Theatre Communications Group, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the New York Community Trust and the Emma A. Sheafer Charitable Trust.