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Theater honors talent of disabled communities


Phamaly Theatre Company (an acronym for the Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League) was founded in 1989. Tired of the lack of opportunities people with disabilities had to participate in theater, five students from the Boettcher School in Denver set out to create a space where these individuals with disabilities could perform. Since then, Phamaly has been producing professional-scale productions cast entirely of performers with disabilities. Although the acronym doesn’t express it, performers with disabilities that range across the spectrum are welcomed at Phamaly: from physical to cognitive to emotional, including actors with disabilities such as blindness, deafness, depression, and autism.

Phamaly has won numerous awards including Best Theatre Company from 5280 Magazine and Best Season for an Actress: Lucy Roucis from Westword in 2012. On Feb. 23–March 12, Phamaly continued to uphold its high standards and wow audiences with their most recent production, Pygmalion.

Written by George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion follows the story of Henry Higgins (Robert Michael Sanders), an inconsiderate professor of phonetics who takes on a bet that he can train a disheveled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle (Micayla Smith), to pass as a duchess for an ambassador’s garden party.

Throughout the play, the actors, lighting, set, and direction captivated the audience and took them into the world of the play. Walking into the theater, it was immediately clear to the audience that it would be a high-caliber performance. A simple-yet-creative set laid on the stage, with a facade and two large columns on either side, the set concealed a much more complex set that would be revealed to audience members later in the performance.

As the lights came up on the first scene, the performance started out on shaky ground, as it was hard to understand some of the characters due to some technical issues and first-performance nerves. However, things quickly smoothed out and the actors’ performances became energized and authentic. Micayla Smith’s rendition as Eliza Doolittle was impressively emotive. It was a hard role to play, as Doolittle goes through a major transformation in the course of the play, and Smith executed it beautifully.

When the play opened, Smith was a bedraggled flower girl on the street with a strong personality and no sense of “manners.” However, by the second half of the play, she exuded charm and poise, while still maintaining her underlying personality and character.

Robert Michael Sanders and Lucy Roucis were also standout actors in the production. In his role of Henry Higgins, Sanders was convincing and authentic. Each line and movement was done purposefully and meaningfully. His performance never ceased to be believable.

Lucy Roucis’ performance in her role of Mrs. Higgins was stunning. Each of her words was articulated immaculately and could be understood without effort. Her comedic lines were delivered with impeccable timing to get an authentic laugh from the audience, and her serious lines were said with powerful emphasis.

The show ended with a resounding round of applause and a much-deserved standing ovation.

Phamaly’s mission statement is “to inspire people to re-envision disability through professional theater.” With their production of Pygmalion, they were successful in doing so.

Tessa Blair
Tessa Blair

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