By David Kenney
Telling Ruth Bieber you haven’t heard of Inside Out Integrated Theatre doesn’t surprise her. Even after 10 years, the local theatre group is still relatively unknown. To Inside Out’s artistic director this isn’t a concern. Inside Out is really a story of evolution.
Ten years ago, Inside Out began with its first production Belonging. Inviting 30 people to watch the mix of disabled and non-disabled people tell stories of the challenges and humour associated with disabilities, the local company began a decade of inspiration. Now The Best of Inside Out can be seen at One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo on Jan. 15 for two shows at the Engineered Air Theatre. Now Inside Out is going beyond just belonging and entering Calgary mainstream theatre.
"It’s been a wonderful, fruitful 10 years," says Bieber, a U of C master of education graduate. "There’s a barrage of people who say things like ‘Why are you only charging three dollars for these performances? It just stands out and sends a bad message. You guys are great, you should be turning more money,’ and stuff like that is so inspiring. We get a lot of positive feedback that spurs us on."
Such feedback helps fuel Inside Out towards its once-a-year collaborative process. Each September the 15 to 20 members of the performing group get together to determine a theme to explore in a play. Unlike traditional theatre where actors mold themselves around roles, Inside Out cast members come up with roles specific to the needs of that individual and their disability.
"These aren’t trained actors, these are people who are given the opportunity through the company," says Bieber. "Even though we’re a cast of people with disabilities… the broad range of the audience can relate to what we’re presenting because the similarities between people with disabilities and people without disabilities are more plentiful than the differences.
"The greatest challenge for me is striking a balance between the contemporary fundamental philosophy of the disability culture and maintaining the integrity of the performing arts because sometimes they clash."
The Best of Inside Out features a series of 12 vignettes on issues such as employment, moving out, family portraits and more. Between each vignette a cast member is interviewed in a satirical manner, adding another element to the production. Bieber says performing for the High Performance Rodeo audience is great for testing the limits of Inside Out.
"On one hand it’s exciting… and on the other hand it’s nerve-wracking," says Bieber. "I don’t know if a Calgary mainstream audience is ready for us. If we’re going to get away with this it’ll be at the High Performance Rodeo."