Mime & Cerebral Palsy, part 1

The last month has brought some challenging aspects of my life to the forefront. I’d like to take a moment to share with you all, in a spirit of hope and gratitude.

As you all know, I have Cerebral Palsy. It’s why I walk with the canes. It’s why I used a wheelchair for over a decade. I’m also discovering that it is part of why I love the mime and physical theatre aspects of my performance.

See, I knew at a young age that I wanted to do something creative. I’ve written poems, played music, and told stories for my entire life. Never, however, did I think of myself as a “mover.” Art forms like dance and martial arts, with my limitations, seemed “off-limits.” When I discovered mime in graduate school, it was something I fell in love with, but — much like with any love in our lives — I fought with, too. How was I to be a mime? Could I ever master even the basic illusions?

Slowly, practicing mime began to transform my relationship with my body. It was part of me, so naturally it could be a part of my creative work. Mime gave me glimpses of what my body could do, even if I couldn’t do it yet. Studying with Antonio Rocha, I saw immediately that mime could be the yin to my storytelling’s yang — each one containing a part of the other, and forming a balance in the process.

When I got the National Storytelling Conference, two things happened that pushed me along that path. First, I got incredible feedback from the storytelling community about my relationship with Antonio, and ways we could (and will) continue to work together. This has only deepened my commitment to mime as an art.

Then, I also heard a storyteller perform a piece about connecting to a boy in a wheelchair through the power of story. It’s not my story to tell you, so I won’t. But I will say that I emerged from that performance finally ready to create a piece about disability. It is far from ready, but I am sharing this with you now because I am so deeply thankful that it happened. I ask that you all, my great, loving community, hold me accountable on this.

One last thing I will share: I’ve been going to the gym regularly. I’m getting stronger every day. This is also motivating me to do more, both in creating a piece on disability, and in testing where my limits really are. This month I learned that my limit around talking about disability — especially through performance — was something self-imposed. I am learning that I need to know where my limits are, but to challenge them and not be defined by them.

Yes, I am a storyteller. Yes, I am a mime. And yes, someday soon, I will tell you, in words and movement, part of my own story.

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