• Queen Seraphina / Britainy Zapshalla

Sum Theatre’s creating unity by celebrating differences

“Where’s your crutch, your wheelchair, your unusual limb?”…  All questions that hit the audience right away at Sum Theatre’s 2018 instalment of Theatre in the Park.

In season six, this family friendly theatre company presents Queen Seraphina & The Land of Vertebraat. It’s an epic tale about a time and place where everyone was disabled. A land of golden ramps and quiet spaces that was ruled by kindness alone, until a mysterious stranger arrives. The original story was written by deaf author Adam Pottle and adapted by the Sum Theatre ensemble.

“We tend to see disability through the lens of charity, pity or tragedy, but disability doesn’t have to be that way.”

“We tend to see disability through the lens of charity, pity or tragedy, but disability doesn’t have to be that way. It can be vital, it can be vigorous, it can show us a whole new way of existing in this world,” says Pottle. “I’m deaf and I’ve studied disability and accessibility for more than a decade. The story has come to me over the years and I began thinking about a world in which disability was the norm and being able-bodied, able-minded is different,”

Adam Pottle / Studio D Photography

Playwright Adam Pottle had the idea for the story when Sum Theatre commissioned him for Theatre in the Park. (Studio D Photography)

This show features elaborate staging ever as the land of Vertebraat is a series of ramps that Queen Seraphina (Haley Brown,a wheelchair user) navigates the world from. Brown says this is a story she wished she had seen as a kid.

“We believe in the power of theatre and the power of community,” says artistic director Joel Bernbaum. “An essential part of community is inclusion. That’s why we are exploring disability and ability as a way of asking what radical inclusion could mean for all of us.”

The all star cast includes Chris Dodd, a Deaf artist and playwright who is the creator of the SOUND OFF: A Deaf Theatre Festival. Michael Martin, who has Erb’s Palsy is an actor currently studying at the U of S. Singer songwriter Josh Palmer will be lending his musical talents to this production as will Indigenous artists Krystle Pederson and Lancelot Knight. This production will also have sign language integrated with our usual original music.

“I hope that families and children leave this show with a new perspective about disability,” says Pottle. “It’s a story for everyone and it gives artists like me a chance to create something outside the regular confines of theatre. After all, you can’t stage wheelchair jousts properly unless they’re outdoors!”

Theatre in the Park 2018 just opened and runs until July 31st. There are Sunday matinees at 2:00p.m. in addition to the regular 7:00p.m. shows. These shows are completely free and travel to a new community park in Saskatoon each day. There’s bound to be a performance in your neighbourhood, for a full schedule go to sumtheatre.com.