This is the Point is a new play crafted as a sledgehammer to the typical assumptions around relationships, sexuality and the daily lives of people living with disabilities.
Based on My Voice, an autobiographical play by Tony Diamanti — a wheelchair user and non-verbal man with cerebral palsy and one of the four actors — This is the Point dramatizes scenes ripped right from the real lives of the two couples who wrote and star in the show.
The first couple is Diamanti and his girlfriend Liz McDougall who is verbal, but also has cerebral palsy. Both were tired of not being seen as being in a relationship or having any kind of sexual desires whatsoever by a majority of people who still assume people with disabilities are asexual.
The second couple is Dan Watson and Christina Serra, two nondisabled artists in residence at The Theatre Centre in Toronto, Ontario, whose son Bruno also has cerebral palsy and is nonverbal. They were frustrated by the constant questions they got asked about their son and his circumstances and wanted to give people a first-hand look at their reality, be it Bruno’s morning routine or that time Serra was told, “You’re the reason we’re not having a home birth.”
The play is structured as a series of scenes and monologues that dramatize experiences from the actor’s real lives, often with the couples playing supporting characters in each other’s scenes. But these are far from the typical narratives ever discussed about the disability experience, much less shown to a theatre audience. The play opens with a rape of Diamanti, after his younger self was dosed with acid by a nondisabled female. When it happened in real life, the rapist thought she was doing Diamanti a favor by giving him what she assumed was his first sexual experience.
Our Aim is to Shock
“Our aim was to shock the audience and get them to confront the fact that people with disabilities have sex, have dirty minds and sometimes face sexual abuse,” says McDougall. “A lot of this goes unacknowledged and we wanted to wake people up.”
Audiences are also intentionally made to sit in the long silences as Diamanti’s wheelchair is put in position for the next scene and he slowly types out his next sentences, so they can confront their own awkward feelings directly, only to eventually embrace them.
But for all its visceral shock value, there’s also a lot of tenderness, like the love scene between McDougall and Diamanti that was playfully interrupted by Watson and Serra before it got too risqué.
“We wanted to share not only our lives, but the complexity of our lives and show that for both couples, our relationships are multi-faceted. We share a certain equality in our relationships and we wanted to normalize the idea that we are two couples who love each other and even though we operate in different ways, it’s essentially the same thing,” says Watson.
So far the audience has been getting the message. The show received rave reviews from the media and in the post-show conversations arranged between the cast and the audience, Diamanti says attendees have been “blown away.”
The success has lead to talk of taking the show on the road across North America and Europe, but it’s a question of getting the financing and finding adaptable venues that are willing to have them.
“It will be less daunting if we can find those people and those organizations that may be open to something like this and help us bridge the gap so that existing theatre establishment can really see what’s possible,” says Watson.
This is the Point ran from Nov. 4-20, 2016 at The Theatre Centre in Toronto, Ontario.