New musical production puts spotlight on those with disabilities

Rehearsal scene

The Shenanigans Theater Company and the UO disability studies minor is bringing superheroes, song, dance, action and much more to Global Scholars Hall June 8 and 10 at the premier of “Heroes from Another Earth: An Original Musical.”

The musical is directed and produced by Betsy Wheeler, director of the disability studies minor and associate professor of English. However, the play is written mostly by students and Eugene community members.

Wheeler has work closely with 12 UO students in her Living Theater class to share the stories of various Eugene community members with and without disabilities. Students have produced written work and Wheeler added a theatrical structure.

The collaborative efforts of everyone involved results in an imaginative mosaic of personal tribulations and fantasy adventure that has the power to send audience members from tears to laughter, Wheeler said.  

“We’ve got this amazing combination of real-life stories of people getting bullied with these fabulous flights of imagination,” she said. “I’m really honored that the students trust me with their words and their stories.”

Audience members can expect stories ranging from a bully in the school lunchroom to Josie and the Pussycats being sucked into a 1980s video game.

Wheeler’s last show, “Life Stories: The Self-Made Musical,” had about 175 attendees. Wheeler hopes to surpass that number by hosting two shows instead of one.

This year’s musical will feature UO students and community members to give the audience a look into the oppression and frustration experienced by people living with disabilities.

“There is still a general lack of knowledge about people with disabilities,” Wheeler said. “I think the arts can provide that kind of opening where you might not even know someone personally, but you know something about their story.”

The musical will be performed free in the residence hall’s Great Room at 8 p.m. June 8 and 2 p.m. June 10 and is expected to run for 90 minutes. The performance will  have American Sign Language interpretation and open captioning.

“It’s not like theater you’re going see anywhere else in the world,” Wheeler said. “You might think that you would come to this show because it’s socially uplifting and it’s good for you, but you should really come to this show because it’s a blast.”

To learn more about the upcoming musical, visit the UO disability studies website.

By Bryan Dorn, University Communications