On Tour: Philadelphia, PA

27 Sep

September 12, 2017 | DEEJ | Philadelphia, PA

The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in central Philadelphia, is a mecca for creative people across the artistic spectrum — on the cutting edge of contemporary music, theatre, dance, and film.  Through the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation’s On Screen/In Person series, I and Deej were privileged to be counted as part of that community.

While the event was certainly a showcase for the aesthetics of documentary filmmaking, it was also clear that many members of the audience were drawn to the screening’s focus on the need for inclusion — the acceptance and accommodation of the disabled, especially the nonspeaking, in education on all levels and in society in general. A number of attendees counted themselves as on the autistic spectrum, some of them also nonspeaking.

Self-advocate Nick Pentzell, aided by Gwen Waltz, joined me onstage following the screening in a discussion ably and insightfully led by University of Pennsylvania disabilities scholar Clare Mullaney.  When asked for his thoughts on the most important ways by which to advance and expand inclusion, Nick first replied, “wow;” then said, “Number one; attitude adjustment; two, adequate funding; three, not having to prove oneself over and over again; and four, the difficulty of making friends.

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It became clear just how important funding and overall societal support are in helping people of all disabilities to gain access to a full, connected life, when a member of the audience rose to share her story — largely one of misdiagnosis, lack of information and support in her efforts to care for a disabled son, and an absence of help in managing her own disability.

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Caroline Leipf, Artistic and Education Manager of Annenberg Center Live, and Al Freeman, Director of Marketing and Ticketing, gave the event the hands-on attention needed to create a deeply meaningful experience for filmmaker and audience alike.

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Left to right onstage: Clare Mullaney, Robert Rooy, Nick Pentzell, Gwen Waltz.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Robert Rooy

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