Saturday, April 23, 2016

Actual Lives Austin Reunion

“On my honor, as a good cripple…” and so began another raucous evening of theatre by and about people with disabilities. Actual Lives Austin entertained and educated people about life with a disability for over 10 years. On April 17, 2016 many members of the company came together to reminisce the good times and the not so good times, remember those who have passed away, celebrate marriages, children, career successes and exchange phone numbers. Chris Strickling, co-founder of the company with Terry Galloway, was in town from her retirement home in the Yucatan, which was the impetuous to get everyone together. It has been almost 6 years since we worked together as a group, but judging by the laughter and conversation in the room, it might have been only yesterday.
Performing Good Cripple’s Oath in Washington, DC
I bet you are wondering how we found each other in 2000 and how we managed to stay together for all those years. Hard work. All good things require a little hard work and a lot of love. And we really did love what we were doing. Hundreds of stories were developed into theater pieces, dances and songs over the 10 years. The three snippets shared below represent just a brief glimpse into the humanness of all the people involved. Love to Tanya, Mesko, and the person who cannot be named for sharing your lives with us.


This week I am writing, but music, not words. Not creative music but remembered music. Old, remembered melodies. I don’t know where they come from, but one leads to another. Mostly I remember honky tonk songs, played on the radio by my mother. This week it was:

Have I told you lately that I love you? Shall I tell you once again somehow? Have I told you how with all my soul how I adore you? Well darling I’m telling you now.

This heart would break in two if you should leave me. I’m no good without you anyhow. Dear, have I told you lately that I love you? Well darling, I’m telling you now.

After the words are written down, next comes a trip to the piano to pick out the tune. Then, last for me, transferring that melody to the chords of the guitar. These songs sound better to me now, than when we drove down the highway with the windows open, wind in our hair, and mother singing along. Actually, I found mother’s actions to be a bit embarrassing. But I was a pretty snotty kid.
We had so much love we had our own fan club!

"Sun Dance" by Tanya
I have experienced many different kinds of transitions in my life, but this one was nothing like I’ve ever felt before. Imagine yourself in the piney woods of east Texas and it’s hot, really hot, I mean frying pan hot. I’m at Sundance, not the film festival, but the Lakota New year.  So-the-people-will-live Sun Dance. I just wanted something to happen, but the angels never came, the sun just kept shining down. That day I learned that I knew nothing about God. What I discovered was, that didn’t matter.

Mesko performing "Bullies"
"Bullies" by Mesko

I was 14 when I took up weight lifting. I was tired of being beat up. The local bullies, most of them, quit bugging me when I started pulling weights. Finally, even the two biggest, dumbest bullies gave it up – they just quit one day. Period. I didn’t know why.

My friend Glen Randall was not rocket scientist. He just wasn’t, and he knew it. He liked hanging around with me. Why? I’d turn him on to things. Books, movies, and the like. He was more of a physical type than me, MUCH MORE!! Glen was not only good at fighting, he liked to fight. He died of brain cancer in last twenties, before I even knew that he was sick.

Many years later, I found out that Glen had taken each one of the Bad Boys who were bullying me into a back alley and beat the crap out of them – after telling them “Leave Mesko alone!” He had my back, Big Time. I never got to say Thank You as a teen. I’m saying it now.

We love you Actual Lives Austin actors, dancers, friends, fans, and supporters. It was great fun!

The Actual Lives Austin group at the 2016 reunion

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