We’re going to take a small step away from strictly focusing on World of Warcraft for a moment here and talk instead about a portion – roleplaying. But we’re not actually going to be talking about roleplaying in WoW, instead we’re going to talk about the real world equivalent of that (un)familiar aspect of the game and step into the realm of theatre. We’re not going to talk about the theater, but rather the theatre that takes place within the theater.
And in typical Psynister style, there’s a story to go along with it.
Backstory: Happy Seventh Anniversary to Us!
Last week my wife and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary by spending a week away from the boring Texas plains spent in and around the beautiful mountains of Colorado instead. The idea behind the trip was to get away and relax for a while, just to be away from everything and enjoy each other’s company. We didn’t want too much planned, we didn’t want to stay busy of feel like we were on the road constantly, so I took a look at events in the areas we were staying in for just a couple of things for us to do to have it be more than just a trip from one place to another.
The first of those planned events was to watch the American Idols Live Tour. We didn’t have huge hopes for the concert, but we do watch the show so I figured we might as well take advantage of the opportunity and go see it. We were both surprised in how well they all performed and you could see a lot of growth in some of them that you didn’t see on the show. A lot of those singers were really able to find their voice and the right kind of songs for them when they weren’t restricted by the rules of the competition. I’ll leave out most of the details and just say that we both enjoyed it a lot and we were both happy that we decided to go ahead and go even though we talked for a while about just eating the cost of the tickets and skipping it.
The next day we left the hotel in Denver for three wonderful days in Evergreen, CO at a bed and breakfast called Highland Haven, and it was exactly what we needed. It was definitely the best of the three places we stayed during the trip, and staying in a creekside B&B up in the mountains is an amazing way to get some relaxation, and breakfast was great every day.
The day that we left Evergreen for Golden (the location of our first kiss, I’m cheesy, what can I say?) was the day of our final event, which was to see a play in Arvada. And that is where we get into the inspiration for this post.
Roleplay = Theatre = PHAMALY?
The final night of our vacation is when we went to our last event, a performance done in the Arvada Center amphitheater of Beauty and the Beast (there’s an excellent review of it here if you’d care to read). If you’re not familiar with the story of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, then here’s a short description for you:
Once upon a time there lived a selfish young Prince, who had everything his heart desired. One stormy night, an old Woman begs for shelter in the Prince’s castle offering in return, a single red rose. Unwilling to help her, he turns the old woman away. As punishment, she transforms him into a hideous Beast and places a powerful spell on the castle and all who live there. Years later, a kindly old villager, loses his way in the woods. Terrified of the ominous forest, Maurice seeks shelter at the old castle, but the Beast takes him captive instead. Maurice’s daughter, Belle, desperate to save her father gives up her freedom to set him free. With the help of the enchanted castle’s residents, Belle sets out to tame the unfortunate Beast not knowing she will break the spell and discover her handsome prince.
When I had purchased tickets, I had no idea that PHAMALY would be involved, or even who or what PHAMALY was. I knew the story and I’ve been involved with theatre since my early teenage years, so I just wanted to take my wife to a play. Little did I know I had purchased tickets for much, much more.
As we picked up our tickets from the box office and made our way down to the second row of seats in the Arvada Amphitheater I couldn’t help but notice the large number of people with physical disabilities in attendance. Not that there was anything wrong it it, it just stuck out to me from how many there were and I commented to my wife, “there’s a lot of people in wheelchairs here tonight.”
As we found our seats we took a look at the program and there we saw the PHAMALY logo and a short description of who they were and what they did. That explained the unusually (to me) high number of people in the audience with disabilities and my curiosity really began to grow.
“The Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League (PHAMALY) is a theatre group and touring company that performs throughout the greater Denver area. PHAMALY was formed in 1989 when a group of former students of the Boettcher School in Denver, Colorado, grew frustrated with the lack of theatrical opportunities for people living with disabilities, and decided to create a theatre company that would provide individuals with disabilities the opportunity to perform. As a not-for-profit membership organization, PHAMALY is dedicated to producing traditional theatre in nontraditional ways.”
As the show went on there was a wide variety of actors and actresses on stage, with various disabilities. Some of them you could tell what their disabilities were and others you could not, but while you might expect some of that to take away from the experience, keeping you from being absorbed into the story being performed in front of you, that was not the case at all. In fact, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful performances I have ever seen; and being involved with theatre for so long, I’ve seen a lot.
Seeing a wonderful play performed by these amazing people was more than worth the low cost of the tickets to see it, but also being able to see the looks on the faces of those actors as they took their bows before the audience at the end of it, and seeing how incredible and meaningful it was for them was literally breath taking. And it was more than just seeing people with disabilities performing on stage. I think this was possibly one of the single best stories they could have used as it relates on so very many levels to each individual on the stage and so many others there in attendance.
It’s a story about looking beyond the physical body, seeing the true person for who they are rather than what they appear to be. It’s about dealing with physical impairments, like losing the use of your hands as they’re turned into melted candle wax, and living your life to its fullest.
It’s much easier to feel emotionally connected to the actors on stage than it is the animated characters of the Disney’s cartoon, especially as you can see the real life disabilities tied into the characters that they portray. To keep things upbeat for you now and then PHAMALY added in a few bits of comic relief of their own, that also tied into it well. My favorite character there was Lefou, played by Regan Linton. She’s the underling of sorts to the bad guy, Gaston, and she happens to be in a wheelchair. One of the set pieces on stage was used to symbolize the stairs leading up to the Beast’s castle, and as Regan rolled over and ran into it, she turns to the audience and says, “Thseriouthsly!?! WHERE, iths the RAMP!??!” [Edit: Per Daniel's revelation, switched Regan's gender to female as it should be. (Sorry, Regan!)]
Daniel Traylor, who plays Lumiere and is depicted above, was also a highlight of the show for me, both because I love the character and because he pulled it off so well. He fills a role of comedy and of drama, he’s the source of light (pun) and hope, and the acting and costuming came together brilliantly.
Having been so impressed with what I saw there on that stage and learning more about PHAMALY, I felt the need to add PHAMALY to my Psynister Support page, as an organization that I trust and admire. As part of our mid-long term plans includes moving to the Denver area, I hope to be able to be more supportive of this wonderful organization.
They perform, at this time, only in the greater Denver area, so if you would like to see them perform then you’ll have to go to them, but I strongly encourage anyone in the area or traveling through that might have the time to spare to attend one of their performances if you have the chance.
If you wish to find out more about PHAMALY, you can do so by clicking on their logo up above, or by visiting their webpage at www.phamaly.org