AJ, a student at the Maryland School for the Blind, is both visually and hearing impaired. He also has cognitive delays. Much of society would pity AJ for those disabilities—in fact they are often called 'disadvantages.' Let me dispel that impression. I am ‘Petroushka’ the puppet, who longs only for respect and love. The wicked puppet master abuses Petroushka, tying a noose around his wrist, keeping him in captivity. In his despair, Petroushka turns to AJ, reaching out for compassion. AJ feels the emotional pain, the longing of the puppet for freedom. His hands tremble, his sounds are echoed around the room, he wants to help Petroushka. It takes so much physical, emotional, and spiritual energy, but in the end, AJ unties the knot, and removes the noose from the puppets wrist. His triumph is felt throughout the room. Students, staff, and artists feel AJ has not just released Petroushka from captivity but he has released us all from our limitations, from our fears. He has ‘healed’ all of us.
"Without hearing, without vision, I can feel…"
These words are spoken by Helen Keller in the Magical Experience Arts Company (MEAC) play, Feeling the Rainbow. These words were not actually spoken by the real Keller, but I think they do reflect her character and life story. In September 2012, we were introduced to a new student, who had just been transferred to the residential program at the Maryland School for the Blind. Keon, who was born deaf, and later diagnosed within the autism spectrum at the age of 18 years, also lost his vision.
How can we help ‘heal’ Keon, an adolescent, coping with the trauma of this new disability? How can we at MEAC reach out and touch the life of an individual, who crushes light-bulbs, hits and kicks, pulls sinks from walls, and has some really bad days. We heal, because we never give up. We never stop reaching out to Keon with comfort and love. We want to give him a life of dignity, a life where Keon will learn to ‘feel’ the world around him. But we never undermine Keon’s struggles, and times of despair. There is no shame in the tears we will cry with him over the years, there is never anger at Keon when he just is not able to make it through a whole performance. Healing for Keon is knowing that every Tuesday, he is welcome into a sacred space, where the MEAC artists will hold his hand, pray for his well-being, and sprinkle his life with a very magical dust. All these wonderful moments take place because of funding from the National Endowment for the Arts enables the Magical Experiences Arts Company to present weekly theater performances at The Maryland School for the Blind.