Being a blind actress is many things: challenging and rewarding, cathartic and uplifting, fun and freeing. What most people don’t realize is that blindness, in and of itself, requires us to be actors every day. Of course, this is true of anyone and everyone, blind or not. We all wear masks, conceal truths, profess to feel things we don’t. But with a trait like blindness– something obvious and visible, which douses us daily in an eternal, inextinguishable spotlight — the play-acting invariably becomes more complex. Striving, constantly, to put others at ease, regardless of our own state-of-being, is an exhausting side-effect of blindness which few people recognize. In some ways, blind people are more accustomed to the pressures of acting than many sighted person will ever be.
If I could grant anyone with special needs one wish, it would be the chance to be part of a company like CRE Outreach. For me, CRE’s magic comes in two forms. First, there’s the singular sensitivity of the sighted members of CRE: the directors, the assistants, the sighted actors who join us on certain projects, the audience members who have attended so many of our shows that they’ve learned about blindness by osmosis. Back home, as I catch my breath between answering the public’s questions and negotiating the logistics of graduate school as the only totally blind student in my program, I replay each little L.A. moment. The guiding hands and detailed explanations, so much more beneficial than the ever-present, ineffectual pointing, gesturing, and “over theres” which the rest of the world uses in abundance. The implementation of sound cues–taps on chairs, doorways, and obstacles in our paths–which become second-nature to those who know us best. The easy way we walk together. The empathy that only develops when a sighted person makes the choice to truly live blindness alongside us, even when it’s hard. And, always, always, the way they’re able to open their eyes wide enough to let us see, too.
Alongside our sighted compatriots, our “honorary blind people,” as we affectionately call those of the CRE contingent who can see, we’re a team of blind actors. The blind cast members are different ages and backgrounds; we have different levels of vision, different pasts, different families, different lives, different dreams. But being visually impaired binds us inextricably, regardless of our stories. We’ve all lived through those ups and downs of blindness that can sometimes feel so overwhelmingly difficult to share or explain.
CRE casts never leave shows and move on. Contact remains constant, through phone calls and texts and e-mails, voice-chatting and video-chatting and Braille letters, playing and replaying treasured recordings of the laughs, the triumphs, the moments of growth and change. It’s about so much more than putting on a show. When the curtains part on opening night, our plays almost feel like bonuses: beautiful things we were able to produce as a team, chiefly because we’re so deeply invested in this family we’ve created along the way.
Actress and Playwright