Realwheels Theatre has announced its 2023-2024 season to celebrate its 20th anniversary season.
After the pandemic pivots and several changes to the company’s leadership, Realwheels is preparing a new season with new faces, new ideas, and a list of exciting initiatives and projects.
“The pandemic was particularly hard on the company and the community we serve,” offers Interim Artistic Director, Shawn Macdonald. “For a community that regularly experiences isolation like the Disability Community, and for whom the risks of the pandemic were even more pronounced, the return to in-person interaction and performance has been even more careful and gradual.”
Founded in 2003, the company’s mandate is to create work that deepens understanding of the disability experience both on and off Canada’s stages.
“Since the company was founded, the Disability Community has grown and shifted as it continually seeks to redefine itself,” says Macdonald. “Realwheels is shifting right along with it, and the result is a deeper reach into the community and an expanded roster of work.”
For this upcoming 2023-2024 season, Realwheels is excited to announce the commissioning of a brand new play (currently in development) by Adam Grant Warren – Saturday Night At Axles. When top-tier travel YouTuber and wheelchair-user Ramona Peet finally returns to Axles, the only wheelchair accessible bar in all of downtown St John’s, her old friends are right where she left them. She says she’s back to record a come-home video for her channel, but as the night goes on, the real reason why Ramona wants her old pals on camera comes to light – and forces everyone to answer questions of belonging, identity, and perspective that none of them have ever faced before. Ramona least of all.
“We’re thrilled to support Adam in bringing his first draft of Saturday Night At Axles to fruition, and help develop it as it grows further,” says Macdonald.
Warren is a multi-disciplinary artist who won Jessie Awards for his roles in Creeps, produced by Realwheels in 2013, and for Kill Me Now, produced by Touchstone Theatre in 2018.
“As if this commission wasn’t exciting enough, we’re so lucky to be onboarding Adam as our new Artistic Associate,” says Macdonald. “He’ll be a key member of the Artistic Team at Realwheels, and I can’t wait to collaborate with this amazing artist.”
In the fall of 2023, The Realwheels Academy launches its third and final school year with its current cohort under the tutelage of instructors Sandra Ferens, Emily Jane King, and Harmanie Rose. The five students’ final term will see the creation and presentation of a devised work in a year-end showcase to be presented in June of 2024.
Underway now, Realwheels Theatre’s marks the start of its 20th anniversary season with its third Playwriting Circle, under the guidance of Natasha Nadi, excerpts of the plays will be presented via Zoom on December 16, 2023.
In May of 2024, Realwheels presents a play reading series at the Roundhouse Community Centre showcasing three new works, each at varying phases of development, by artists who live with disability. The first is Adam Grant Warren’s Saturday Night At Axles, whose second draft will be offered for an audience to experience.
The second play is Faye’s Room, by Alex Masse, which is about an autistic woman who works at a queer cafe, and the magic sensory room she summons and takes shelter in at will. Faye’s Room explores the experience of being queer and disabled, neurodivergent solidarity, and overcoming internalized ableism.
The third play is Vascular Necrosis, by Jordyn Wood, “Symptoms may include fatigue, heart palpitations, and an unyielding, unrelenting thirst for human flesh…” Vascular Necrosis is a disjointed narrative that subverts typical zombie tropes to explore identity, chronic illness, and belonging.
The final show of this 20th anniversary season is Disability Tour Bus, which will be presented as a radio play in June of 2024, under the direction of former Realwheels Artistic Director, Rena Cohen. Told through the lens of a young wheelchair user who gets a job as a tour operator, Disability Tour Bus acquaints the typically-abled world with the challenges of just getting around, and explores difference and intergenerational conflict with a touch of romance.
“This play has been in development since the pandemic and we are so excited to finally present it to the community,” says Macdonald. “The play explores the lack of access that many folks in the Disability Community experience as they navigate a city like Vancouver.”
For more information on Realwheels Theatre 20th Anniversary Season visit realwheels.ca.