Phamaly Plan: Theater for everyone

Phamaly’s current production is a collaboration with the Community College of Aurora’s theater department for “Vox: Under Construction.” This version of Vox, which is a long-running series from Phamaly that features sketches written by the performers, features both members of the Phamaly theater company and students at CCA, many of whom are making their first foray to getting on stage

Adam Koudsi, a player in the Phamaly Theatre group, rehearses a scene from their current performance of VOX: Under Construction, Oct. 25 at the Black Box Theater at Community College of Aurora. This production consists of original short sketches that center around perceptions of disability and provides the actors the opportunity to tell their stories. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

Adam Koudsi, a player in the Phamaly Theatre group, rehearses a scene from their current performance of VOX: Under Construction, Oct. 25 at the Black Box Theater at Community College of Aurora. This production consists of original short sketches that center around perceptions of disability and provides the actors the opportunity to tell their stories. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

Cole Cousins, left, and co-director Julie Rada, work on minor blocking adjustments during the final dress rehearsal of Vox: Under Construction, Oct. 25 at the Black Box Theater at Community College of Aurora. This production consists of original short sketches that center around perceptions of disability and provides the actors the opportunity to tell their stories. 
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

Cole Cousins, left, and co-director Julie Rada, work on minor blocking adjustments during the final dress rehearsal of Vox: Under Construction, Oct. 25 at the Black Box Theater at Community College of Aurora. This production consists of original short sketches that center around perceptions of disability and provides the actors the opportunity to tell their stories. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

Actors Jordan Kaplan, left, and Lisa Gough and her service dog Angel, get ready before starting their final dress rehearsal for Vox: Under Construction, Oct. 25 at the Black Box Theater at Community College of Aurora. This production consists of original short sketches that center around perceptions of disability and provides the actors the opportunity to tell their stories. 
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

Actors Jordan Kaplan, left, and Lisa Gough and her service dog Angel, get ready before starting their final dress rehearsal for Vox: Under Construction, Oct. 25 at the Black Box Theater at Community College of Aurora. This production consists of original short sketches that center around perceptions of disability and provides the actors the opportunity to tell their stories. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

Julie Miley puts on a safety vest, the last piece of her costume, before beginning the final dress rehearsal of Vox; Under Construction, Oct. 25 at the Black Box Theater at Community College of Aurora. This production consists of original short sketches that center around perceptions of disability and provides the actors the opportunity to tell their stories. 
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

Julie Miley puts on a safety vest, the last piece of her costume, before beginning the final dress rehearsal of Vox; Under Construction, Oct. 25 at the Black Box Theater at Community College of Aurora. This production consists of original short sketches that center around perceptions of disability and provides the actors the opportunity to tell their stories. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel

AURORA | Inclusivity is supposed to be what art does best, giving a stage to those who are underrepresented. But as inclusive as art, and specifically theater, wants to be, for actors, writers and directors with a disability, there’s often never a chance to take center stage and have a chance to tell their story.

Phamaly Theatre Company has been putting those with disabilities front and center since 1989 when it was founded in Denver. And Phamaly has gotten recognition from across the country for doing something that so many theater companies just won’t consider: giving those with disabilities a chance to take the stage.

Phamaly’s current production is a collaboration with the Community College of Aurora’s theater department for “Vox: Under Construction.” This version of Vox, which is a long-running series from Phamaly that features sketches written by the performers, features both members of the Phamaly theater company and students at CCA, many of whom are making their first foray to getting on stage.

“The arts are like everything else: they’re not welcoming to those with disabilities,” said Mark Dissette, a Phamaly member and one of the directors of the current CCA production. “It’s not a problem getting a life-sized elephant onstage or a helicopter on stage. But getting a wheelchair on stage stymies the imagination.”

For “Vox: Under Construction,” the actors from CCA and Phamaly are sharing their own stories with the audience. For several weeks, the actors workshopped the stories they wanted to tell and honed them down to scenes for the show. Some of them are funny, some of them are painful. But all of them are honest and reflect the experiences of the cast of living with a disability, whether it’s visible to those around them or not.

“My personal philosophy is everyone has a story to tell and I guess I’m included in that,” said Adam Koudsi, a CCA student and member of the show.

Koudsi was diagnosed with autism when he was younger but since then that diagnosis has been called into question by doctors. Working on how to tell his story and then getting on stage himself to tell it was a journey for Koudsi and one he hoped would teach the audience.

“It was a challenge but I really liked doing this process,” Koudsi said. “Some of the best writing is the most personal and I don’t think you can get more personal than this.”

The show puts a spotlight on everyone living with disability, even if that disability couldn’t be seen unless it was highlighted in a show like Vox. Lisa Gough, an actor with Phamaly and a cast member of the current show at CCA, suffered a traumatic brain injury which led to hear leaving a life of musical and dance performance.

“The show is quite funny and touching. It’s more like improv with a personal touch and I hope that the audience takes way that even though people may not appear to be normal or they don’t appear to have a disability we all need ot to be treated with kindness,” Gough said.

Stacy D’Angelo, one of the directors for Vox and CCA’s director of theater, said the show not only gives the actors a chance to tell their story in a unique way, but also it gives the audience a chance to remove preconceived notions about what it means to live with a handicap and instead be able to see the world through the lens of someone else.

“This show is an opportunity to expand and relate to anyone who lives with a disability,” D’Angelo said.

Kimberlee Nanda, another member of Phamaly who’s telling her story in Vox, said this show is more personal than other incarnations of the Vox series have been. And telling her story of living with a brain tumor and cancer and the ramifications is an emotional challenge but one she hoped the audience would walk away with a better understanding.

“I hope that they’re more understanding. I think that people don’t know how to act around people who are disabled, to know how they’re supposed to be,” Nanda said. “I hope they come to the show and realize we’re people too and this thing we have to deal with is just like what they have to deal with on a different level.”

“Vox: Under Construction”

7:30 p.m. Thur.-Fri. 2:30 p.m. Sat.

Larry D. Carter Theater at the Community College of Aurora’s Fine Arts Building. 16000 E. CentreTech Parkway

Tickets $10 general admission, non CCA students and seniors $7. Tickets available at door or at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3079841. For more information visit www.ccaurora.edu/programs-classes/departments/performing-arts/theatre/vox-under-construction