OOPS! by John Feld, directed by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. Presented by Crippled Toronto at the Workman Theatre (1001 Queen West). Aug 3 and 11 at 8 pm, Aug 13 at 2 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Leesa Levinson wants audiences to share laughs with people in wheelchairs.
Levinson, who's lived with MS for years, is one of the troupe presenting Oops!, a comedy by John Feld that looks at three wheelchair-bound people who plan to rob a bank during a disability parade. It's presented by Crippled Toronto, a group of actors with disabilities.
"The piece reminds people not to take life so seriously; it pokes fun at what we all try to accomplish, battle or overcome," says the performer, who works with a number of groups, including ACTRA Toronto's diversity committee, advocating a higher public profile for those with disabilities.
Levinson plays Maggie Klein, a woman who loves the trio's boss, Weiss, because he's a rebel who wants to change the system and make able-bodied people aware of what the disabled have to face.
"She's a love child," offers Levinson, going into character by raising her voice an octave, "the kind of person who cares about everyone and, while not quite ditzy, is a little light in the brain department."
Levinson was studying theatre when she was diagnosed with the degenerative disease, and in retrospect realizes that moving to a wheelchair gave her independence. A disability advocate for years, she recently helped spearhead the Access 2 Entertainment card, which gives free or discounted cinema tickets to the disabled and their support people.
"We thought a few hundred would apply for the card, but within a year nearly 20,000 people registered for it. There's a clear need and demand by a culture that wants to be part of society and share its stories."
She admits that the comedy in Oops! is occasionally bitter, "but the tongue-in-cheek quips will make you hoot most of the time.
"Comedy is a great tool for awareness; I hope it helps the able-bodied to see the disabled as everyday people who do everyday things."