Fundy Fringe Festival’s Crippled Highlights Darker Side Of Disability

It was late September 2013 when Moncton-based playwright Paul David Power’s life changed forever with the sudden passing of his partner of nine years.

The grieving process, as well as Power’s physical disability – he requires leg braces and clutches for mobility issues stemming from a rare form of spina bifida – is explored in Crippled, which is being presented at the BMO Theatre in Saint John through Saturday.

While exploring the theme of disabilities via a stage production is not a new endeavour for Power, he admits that Crippled looks at the darker side of being disabled.

“The play takes place over the course of one evening on the St. John’s waterfront and sees my character, Tony, contemplating life and whether he wants to continue living it. It examines how his physical disability has impacted not only his sense of self worth, but also his confidence,” Power says.

“Additionally though, the production also looks at events in his life – lost love, grief, career, missed opportunities – that serve to show that feeling crippled is not limited strictly to a physical disability.”

A native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Power graduated from Memorial University with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in theatre. It was there that he discovered his love of the theatre.

“The first time I participated in an acting class, I absolutely loved it. Following that, I routinely went after roles, and was actually fortunate that directors were willing to look past my disability and cast me in a number of productions.”

Power went on to attend Ryerson University in Toronto, eventually working as an associate producer with TV Ontario before deciding to return to his native Newfoundland. Following a three-year stint as the President of Calgary’s Liffey Players Drama Society. Power’s partner received a work transfer to Moncton in 2010.

Shortly following his arrival in Moncton, Power became involved with Moncton’s Hubcity Theatre, landing significant roles in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Dracula, before moving on to assume the role of Artistic Director in 2013.

He shares that while he has felt nothing but welcome among his peers since arriving in Moncton in 2010, across the board acceptance isn’t as common as people might like to believe.

After having had the opportunity to attend a conference on disability issues in Ottawa, he came to realize that Hubcity Theatre was considerably more progressive than many other theatre groups from across Canada.

“What I took away from that research is that it’s not enough for theatre groups to say they are accessible. They need to make a conscious effort of reaching out to people rather than waiting for them to come to you.”

While Power’s 2016 production Roomies highlighted how those with diametrically opposed personalities can ultimately find common ground, Crippled is undoubtedly one of his most personal works to date.

“From a personal perspective, the play is entertaining, but also delves into deeply serious topics, with real emotions at the heart of it. I’m a little excited, but am also scared to death to share it, as it’s intensely personal. Every line in the production has so much history and imagery behind it. I think Crippled serves as a good example of how theatre and art can be healing,” he says.

“I felt that I needed to somehow share and express that entire grieving process – what it truly is and how it changes you.”

For further information about Crippled, including showtimes, visit www.fundyfringefestival.com.