INTERMISSION: The Right Thing to Do Part 2: Know Others

by Terry Stern

Abe died recently. A bright guy, he was in his late 90s and had been mostly blind for years. He was a familiar sight in the halls of the building, refusing to use a cane or a dog, he stubbornly insisted to the public that his eyes were fine even while admitting to his nearest neighbors and friends that he was blind as cardboard.

We knew what to do when we saw him: greet him first and mention our own names, walk with him a bit down the hallway but not offer help unless the need were very obvious, see that this leg of his trip was completed without incident, and part ways.

It is now plain that at some point Abe made his very last trip on the senior’s bus over to the Shoprite. He made his very last phone call, took his very last shower. I don’t know if he knew they were his last. I think many people don’t.

I’m a bit different. My disability makes my gradual diminishment predictable years away. I took my last free step two years ago, and I was plenty sure it was my last, and happy to have it so. Walking was fire inside my legs. I’ve used a scooter since.

I describe my last step with a glib rationality it does not deserve. The transition from temporarily able-bodied (a term used by disabled activists to describe the non-disabled) to disabled cost me my home and nearly cost me my family. There’s a lot that could be written about it.

The part I want to share with you here is the theatre part. It would be useful to both of us for me to tell you what it’s like for me as a disabled theatre patron. But every time I try to write it, the story becomes a series of unintended comparisons of what happened to me in various theatres and devolves into de facto complaint, which is far from my intention. I simply want to put the story out there.

Then I realized that it’s not my story alone which I want to put out there. It’s everybody’s disabled story. It’s the story of disabled performers as well as patrons.

So I invite any other disabled theatre patron or player to contact me and tell me your story. I will collect them and write them up as a series of portraits, anonymous if that is your wish.

If you are disabled or know a disabled person and have a story about theatre to share, please email me at or call me (856) 240-0890.

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