Peter Royston, Stage Manager: “I Make Magic Happen”
There are moments on stage that are magic. Moments like listening backstage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival during a performance of Oklahoma! in 2018 when a group of students stood with a rainbow flag after each act of love displayed on stage. I still get chills thinking about the impact of that production and was honored to be a part of it.
Oklahoma! was my first contract being “out” about my disability. I was born with cerebral palsy and have spent most of life passing as an able bodied person. I spent a decade in professional theater without mentioning it. I limp when I am tired. I have aphasia when I am tired. I need more time figuring out how to physically move in a space. None of these items are a problem until it becomes a problem.
Aphasia means that I may invert a name, say an incorrect number, leave out words in an email. Most stage managers have said to me that this happens to them when they get tired. But it is not the same.
What I found is that disability is very complex. The issue of ability is brushed to the side, because folks think it is too complicated to accommodate. What I can do is speak from my personal experience. I have a gift. I know others see that I have a gift. When I am used effectively, I make magic happen.
I hope that our union, our culture, and our country will shift soon. Disability cannot be seen as a private medical disease. We need to know what the field looks like. We need to be able find each other. Although no one will verify, I am quite sure that I will be the first stage manager on Broadway with cerebral palsy. And I believe that when we finally use all differently abled people wisely, the world will begin to heal itself.
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Published in collaboration with The Ensemblist