This Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22, Members of the L.A. GOAL drama program will take the stage in Advocates and Love, a play created by the actors themselves. Two years in the making, Advocates and Love is a story about self-advocacy and the rights of individuals with disabilities. I sat down with actors Lisie, Dorian, and Amin (who wrote the interview questions!), and Director Ronnie B. to hear more about the experience of creating and performing Advocates and Love. Below are some highlights from our conversation.
Ronnie: How has this play affected your life?
Lisie: I think people can get to know me better because I do have disabilities and issues and they can understand maybe a little bit about what I go through.
Dorian: It’s pretty awesome being part of the play.
Ronnie: Have you ever had to advocate for yourself and found it difficult?
Lisie: I’ve had to and it’s been hard at times. I’ve spoken up for myself and sometimes people don’t like that. I’ve spoken my feelings and said “This is how I want it.”
Amin: Have people ever made fun of you because of your disability?
Lisie: Oh, yes. They’ve made remarks. When I was in school they used to call me “E.T..” One time, a boy I thought was really nice and he came up and said, “Are you retarded?” or something like that. The teacher was fair and made him write an essay. I think his friends put him up to it. I went to work at a school and had someone say that she didn’t think it was a good idea to work with kids.
Amin: I think that people make fun of people like us because they consider themselves in a superior position. I’m not saying it’s right.
Lisie: Yea, they think they’re better than us. Sometimes people are scared of us. Rather than try to figure out who we are, they make fun of us. They are limited in their ways of getting to know us and asking, “Who are you?”
Amin: What are some of the abilities you have, rather than disabilities?
Dorian: Reading, writing, spelling, speaking. Singing. Speaking in other languages. Privet means “Hi” in Russian!
Amin: I have the ability to love musicals and the ability to write. I have the ability to advocate for myself.
Lisie: Some of the things I love doing: I love to make cards. I love to paint. I love to do books for the holidays. I love to work with people. When I see one of my friends doing something that I’ve helped them with, it makes me feel glad. I love being with animals.
Amin: What did you learn about the Lanterman Act* from doing the play?
Dorian: We as humans all have rights.
Lisie: I have known about it for a few years. It’s a very crucial and important act. It states that even though we have disabilities and have some things we need help with or are slower at, doesn’t mean we don’t have rights. We have those rights and they are important to us. And just because we have disabilities doesn’t mean we don’t have abilities in other areas. We had one Member of L.A. GOAL who was excellent in math but maybe they were a little slower at walking. We have one Member who is an amazing artist and they may need help in math. You may have your strengths and weaknesses, but doesn’t everybody?
Ronnie: What’s the line in the play that we all say?
Lisie/Amin/Dorian: We have the same rights as any other person!
Rachel: Any last words you want to say about the play?
Lisie: I think hopefully this play will show people that we need these services but we also have rights and abilities. We have things we can do well. Even though there are things we can’t do well. Maybe they will realize. If they see someone lost in the train station maybe they will say, “The bus stop is over there.”
Ronnie: What I love about the play is it shows people that you marry, that you love, and that you stand up for yourselves and have the same rights as everybody else!
Dorian: Yes! For me, I’ve been in many plays. I’ve been a wee bit nervous but that’s all right! I still knock them out the box! Just do your very best and break a leg!
*The Lanterman Act is: “a California law, initially proposed by Assembly member Frank D. Lanterman in 1973 and passed in 1977, that gives people with developmental disabilities the right to services and supports that enable them to live a more independent and normal life…The Lanterman Act declares that persons with developmental disabilities have the same legal rights and responsibilities guaranteed all other persons by federal and state constitutions and laws, and charges the regional center with advocacy for, and protection of, these rights.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Written by Rachel Hamburg, Assistant Director of Development