AURORA | Aurora’s Phamaly Theatre Company turned 25 last year, and the ensuing year-long birthday bash came with no dearth of gifts.
A new artistic director. A nearly two-week production on a stage a world away. A second community impact grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. A trio of True West Awards, the longest-running, uninterrupted recognition series in the Colorado theater community.
And late last month, the now quarter-century-old company for performers with a range of varying disabilities got its final gift. This offering, however, was one given — not received.
Phamaly announced the release of “Unsung and Unstoppable: Voices from the Disability Community” on June 23, an e-book that relates the lives of 63 metro area individuals who are making a positive imprint on the local disability community. Spawned in part to honor the company’s silver jubilee, the recent completion of the digital tome marks the end of an effort over a year in the making.
“This is not simply a collection of biographies,” Chris Silberman, Phamaly’s executive director, said in a statement. “These are captivating stories about remarkable individuals who are bettering our community. This is a page turner that will inspire and excite readers, bring tears to people’s eyes and motivate readers to want to make a difference themselves.”
The release of the book also coincides with the 25-year anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 1990 and drastically improved the rights and services afforded to disabled Americans.
Each of the more than five dozen profiles in the self-published book were chosen from a pool of candidates compiled by a selection committee made up of Phamaly board members last year, according to a press release. One of those board members on the selection committee, Janine Shea, single-handedly edited and revised the 189-page collection.
“Phamaly’s mission, ‘to help people re-envision disabilities through professional theatre,’ sparked the idea for ‘Unsung and Unstoppable,’” Shea wrote in the book’s introduction. “I salute each candidate honored in these pages for your vision, creativity, discipline and love for what you do. You did not ask for attention, but you deserve the recognition.”
Even though they may not have explicitly sought out public acknowledgment, commendation has certainly not escaped many of the people described in the new virtual edition. A number of the featured individuals have garnered local, national and international fame for their contributions to the disabled community.
“I brought disability into the limelight, but it wasn’t my intention,” Denver-based comedian Josh Blue is quoted as saying in the book. “Now that people see me, however, there’s a responsibility involved. I want people to learn about disability through humor. That’s the best way for people to learn.”
Born with cerebral palsy, Blue won NBC’s comedy competition show “Last Comic Standing” in 2006.
One local lever-puller with recently galvanized ties to Aurora is Claudia Folksa, one of the 15 elected directors of the board for the Regional Transportation District. Elected in 2012, Folksa has overseen and helped lay much of the groundwork for the forthcoming R line, which is set to open in Aurora next year. She was the first blind woman to be elected to a Colorado public office.
“My life depends on RTD — therefore, I know its value and feel passionate about preserving and enhancing RTD for others with a disability,” Folksa is quoted as saying in the Phamaly book. “Through increased public participation by people with disabilities, we will begin to enjoy the benefits of true diversity.”
Phamaly is currently gearing up for the opening night of “Cabaret,” the company’s summer production, which runs July 16 through Aug. 9. The company is also currently nominated for three Henry Awards, the annual awards ceremony held at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities that recognizes dozens of theater companies from across the state for outstanding productions from the prior season. Phamaly was nominated in the categories of Outstanding Direction of a Musical, Outstanding Musical Direction and Outstanding Lighting design for its production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts last year.
Unsung and Unstoppable is available for paid download at phamaly.org or lulu.com.