Beware the People With Disabilities Mafia!
The fictitious villains take the new stage of the Encore Studio for the Performing Arts on Friday, Nov. 5. Found Money is a musical by the company's founding artistic director, Kelsy Schoenhaar. It's comedy - with a point.
"Most often you see works portraying people with disabilities as very perfect," she explains. "The reality is that people are people. People with disabilities are the salt of the earth and wonderful - and some are possibly less so. It's kind of fun to play around with that."
Encore is 10 years old this season. It calls itself the only professional theater company for people with disabilities in Wisconsin, and one of very few in the United States.
"We do things that you just don't see," says Schoenhaar. In the case of Found Money that's certainly true; the People With Disabilities Mafia runs afoul of the Cerebral Palsy People With Disabilities Mafia.
"Often when you see theater for people with disabilities, it has a therapeutic base," Schoenhaar says. All can take part.
"In our case, we audition people," she says. "We accept about 30% of the people who audition for us. We try to demonstrate the true skills of individuals with disabilities. We try to focus as high as we can."
Found Money will also show off Encore's new performance space. After eight years, the company departed the Bartell Community Theatre this fall and remodeled its studio space at 1480 Martin St. to create a 40-foot black-box venue.
"It's just a wonderful, warm space that I think works very well for our theater," says Schoenhaar.
Departing the Bartell was a difficult decision. The economy was a big factor. "It's all about juggling, I think, to kind of keep it all alive and strong and looking forward," she says.
Sarah Hoover, the Bartell's managing director, agrees. "I miss having Kelsy around and having a more diverse group of participating theater companies," she says, "but it really made a lot of sense."
Despite leaving the Bartell space that Encore shared with other troupes, the company still has strong ties with different theaters. "Many of the staff that I've hired through the years have been very active board members with just about every theater in town," Schoenhaar says.