NEW YORK — Evan Cummings is teaching a class of burgeoning actors — virtually from his Midtown apartment.
“There needs to be more reflection, across the board, of characters and stories that represent the people in our society right now,” said Cummings, a teaching artist with Theatre for All.
That’s exactly the purpose of Theatre for All, a free two-week program started by the nonprofit Queens Theatre four years ago to provide training and workshops for actors with disabilities.
“There are fewer opportunities for actors with disabilities for a variety of reasons — but I think partially because roles that might be played by an actor with a disability, disabled roles or non-disabled roles, often are played by actors without disabilities,” Cummings said.
Many of the instructors have disabilities, too. Cummings uses a power wheelchair to get around. He suffered a spinal cord injury when he was 13.
“I’m also a director and a writer,” Cummings said. “I often will consider those parts of my art first and the disability second.”
Carey Cox is a graduate of the program. She said it helped her find a community and an agent, and has opened many doors for her.
“Since then, I’ve been going into rooms where the casting directors want to be inclusive, where they know that disabled actors exist and that they’re ready to work and have training,” Cox said.
This is the second year Queens Theatre held the training virtually due to coronavirus restrictions. This year’s class is the biggest yet, with 36 students from across the country, and as far away as India.
“These people exist in the world. They’re serious professionals, right, who are ready, willing and able to work. And what we want to do is just prepare them, you know, the best that we possibly can for when they get that call to audition or when they show up on set,” said Gregg Mozgala, the director of inclusion at Queens Theatre.
With Broadway and small theatres reopening again, the hope is you will see more representation on stage when the curtains open.