Breath & Shadow

A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature


Metaphor On Stage - Movie Review

by Ann Chiappetta

Acting Blind
Documentary: Color; 52 Minutes
Closed-Captioned and Audio-Described
© 2006 National Film Board of Canada

Acting Blind is a behind the scenes look into a non-professional group of actors rehearsing the play, "Dancing to Beethoven". The film highlights the group's metamorphosis from a haphazard bunch of amateurs into a practiced, balanced, performance group.

All the actors are blind and all but one experienced vision loss later in life. A few moments are taken to capture each actor's own struggle with the onset of his or her disability. For instance, one woman recalls the time she drove her car off the road--it was the last time she got behind the wheel. She admits she was in denial until that moment. The director recounts the day he woke from an unsuccessful surgery and realized he'd never see again. There is the grandfatherly actor, who is living with macular degeneration. He is one of the few who has been acting steadily despite his vision loss. He adds that in the beginning, learning how to study his lines without a visual script was difficult, but with the help of a tape recorder he has adapted.

There are turning points for some of the actors, like the young man who cannot act angry or deliver his lines with any more force than someone ordering a cheeseburger. Fortunately, by opening night he has overcome it and powerfully emotes on stage.

The most surprising element of the documentary is after the final curtain call when cast Members promise to keep in touch. There are hugs, tears, relief that it is all over and a collective sense of a job well done. As the director, Clank, taps his way to the exit, someone remarks that even though the cast promises to keep in touch, they most likely will not. Clank lets out a derisive-sounding laugh, agrees with the speaker, and then taps his way out of the venue.

That is the way of the theater, I guess. The experience eventually gets absorbed into the everyday workings of life. It could also be a metaphor for people who live with a disability..

While the film attempts to portray an accurate and realistic piece of disability culture, it falls short due to its lack of detail about the play itself. For instance, there wasn't a description of the play until well into the film, which I found puzzling. While the director and cast members provide some vague clues as to which theatric vignette he or she is acting in, there isn't more than a half-minute clip of each act, which is confusing and left me feeling like I was missing something important. The film didn't seem to end in an appropriate place. I wanted to experience more of the performance in order to really understand the creative effort and emotional connection involved in producing something that made such a huge difference in people's lives.

Acting Blind, and other films dealing with disability are available from Fanlight Productions. Check it out at:www.fanlight.com

Ann writes because she is compelled to do so in order to remain a somewhat balanced human being. She reads for the same reason. Her poetry has appeared in small press publications including Lucidity, Midwest Poetry Review, and Poet's Review. Several non-fiction articles have appeared in Writer to Writer, the Journal News, and other local writing-related magazines in the greater New York area. She is the founder and moderator of LinkOnline, an electronic writing group dedicated to providing its membership with constructive feedback on the writing craft. Anne resides in New Rochelle, New York, with her husband, two teenagers, and a bunch of furry and feathery critters.

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