EPIC Players Inclusion Company is—as my daughter Samantha likes to say—a “mix and match” of talented actors with and without disabilities. On July 27th, EPIC debuted the first of eight performances of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead at the Kraine Theater. In the spirit of EPIC’s mission—Empower, Perform, Include, Create—half the actors were on the autism spectrum, and half were neurotypical. All cast members rose to the challenge of interpreting DSG, an edgy and dark comedy based on the “Peanuts” gang going through their difficult teenage years.
While not an obvious (or easy) choice for actors with disabilities, EPIC’s founder and creative director, Aubrie Therrien explained, “We chose ‘Dog Sees God’ for our first play to mirror the innocence of ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ and also to give our actors living with developmental disabilities a chance to explore themes of sexuality, gender, and loss—issues they often struggle with, just like everyone else, but are never really given the opportunity to express.” Aubrie added, “Too often these individuals are infantilized based on their differences; we want to change that.”
Performing DSG, the EPIC ensemble explored and wrestled with issues of sexual identity, mortality and the meaning of life. (My daughter learned the meaning of the word “arson”.) Cast members also let loose a barrage of expletives that actors with disabilities might find uncomfortable or difficult. Yet all of the EPIC performers not only rose to the challenge, but soared beyond it together. As I watched the play last Friday, I didn’t particularly notice which actors were neurotypical and which were on the spectrum. Instead I was moved by the unexpectedly powerful performances of this uniquely mixed cast. But don’t just believe the proud mom of an EPIC actress. Typical audience reactions included: “Wow, that was powerful . . . I was blown away. . . I’m definitely going to tell my friends. . . More people need to see this.”
It’s not too late. Tickets are still available at www.epicplayers.com for the last three performances of Dog Sees God on Friday, August 4th and Saturday, August 5th at 7:00 pm and Sunday, August 6th at 2:00 pm. The Kraine Theater is at 85 East 4th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. If you live on the Upper East Side, take the lovely Q train to Union Square, change for the 6 train (if you’re not already on it) and get off at Astor Place a few blocks from the theater. West Siders can take the B train to the Broadway Lafayette station.
Of course many of my readers will be away this weekend, enjoying the dog days of summer instead. But if word of mouth and great reviews run true, everyone will want to buy tickets for EPIC’s next production in the fall of the musical You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, featuring my daughter Samantha as Lucy. (I can’t wait!) You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown will open on Thursday, November 16th at the Flea theater. Hope to see you there!