Performers sought for variety show — with a twist

Performers from the Saint John region are getting ready to audition for an exciting singing, dancing, reciting, extravaganza — with an inclusive twist.

StageAbility is a showcase of performers with disabilities at Harbourview High School on May 29. It's the kickoff event for Disability Awareness Week in Saint John, which takes place May 28 to June 3.

"We wanted to do something inclusive that would start us off with a bang and show people what disabilities are all about," said Jo-Anne Mowry with the the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work.

Any performer who self-identifies as having a disability is welcome to audition Wednesday, April 19, at Key Industries at 239 Charlotte St. Auditions are from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

"It's open to anybody with a disability that has a talent that they'd like to get onstage and show the world," said Mowry. "It can be absolutely anything: dancing, singing, poetry, storytelling — any kind of talent."

'A reason to get up'

The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work works with clients across the country to find employment for clients with disabilities.

"When the clients come in, we go over their resumés, work on interviewing skills, and they meet every week to find opportunities that suit them," Mowry said.

In addition to matching up clients' skills with potential employers, Mowry said, the council provides wage subsidies, training and adaptive equipment clients need to do the job.

In 2016, she said, the Saint John program was among the most successful in Canada, finding employment matches for almost 60 people.

"Most people who come in have very short resumés and maybe not a lot of experience," Mowry said. "To work with us every week gives them a reason to get up, a challenge, and builds their confidence."

Strut your stuff

New Brunswick country artist Chris Cummings, soul and roots artist Mike Biggar, and promoter Jeff Liberty will be judging the event and serving as MCs.

Liberty said he's excited to see what sort of skills people will bring to the auditions.

He pointed to the Australian power-pop band Rudely Interrupted, of which five out of six members have physical or intellectual disabilities, as an example of performers who have shattered stereotypes about disability.

Liberty expects the people who audition for StageAbility will "get a real sense of accomplishment." he said. "It's a proud moment to go up in front of your peers, family and friends, and there could be some real special talent there that we can point in the right direction.

"If it's a dream of theirs. Maybe this will encourage them to follow that — and get out and perform more."