The message of Stone Belt’s biennial “I Am You” variety show is multifaceted, much like its performers. Visibility, courage and empowerment are all central themes of "I Am You." The show, which will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 21-22 at the Ted Jones Playhouse, will showcase the talent and experiences of people with disabilities.
Stone Belt is a south-central Indiana nonprofit that provides support and services for people with developmental disabilities. CEO Leslie Green said the event, which features singing, poetry, storytelling and improvisation acts from performers with disabilities, is a way for people to learn more about inclusivity and acceptance.
“I would just encourage people who haven’t had a lot of experiences with friends or acquaintances that have disabilities to come,” Green said. “It’s really a great opportunity for someone to have their awareness raised.”
The first part of the show will include 18 individual performances while the second act will showcase the Playback troupe. The troupe, which is an improvisational group made up of performers with and without disabilities, will ask audience members how the first act made them feel and act out their responses onstage.
The collection of performances will demonstrate how people with and without disabilities are more unified than divided, Green said.
“People go away realizing, even though some of the performers have disabilities, we all have shared experiences,” Green said. “We’re all connected.”
The performers are from Bloomington, Bedford, Indiana and Columbus, Indiana, the three areas served by Stone Belt. One of the performers is Playback troupe member Jessica Walker, a self-proclaimed diva with a passion for acting.
“It’s been a dream because the stage is my second home,” Walker said. “I love the stage.”
The troupe has rehearsed every Thursday for seven months, working on ways to verbally and physically express the emotions and experiences of audience members. Walker said she’s excited for the performance and is proud to raise awareness for people with disabilities.
“I hope they will be amazed because we did our best,” Walker said. “And the best is all you can do.”
Whitney Sullivan, a clinical social worker and drama therapist, is the director of the Playback troupe. Sullivan said the event is a way for both the performers and audience to practice deep listening and storytelling in a safe place. The experience can be healing for everyone involved because it helps to bridge gaps created by society’s divisiveness, Sullivan said.
“We can really get into polarities and ways in which we are different,” Sullivan said. “It’s really healing when difference is not avoided, but celebrated.”
Tickets can be purchased for $20 at the box office or on the BCT box office website.