Actual Lives Austin succeeds because of a collaboration between people who consider themselves to be artists and "ordinary" people who become artists through their work with the ensemble. Take a look at who some of these participants are and see what they bring.
Click on a name in this list to go directly to a bio. Each bio is followed by a link to the top of the list.
Susie Angel joined Actual Lives Austin in February 2008. She found out about Actual Lives during a creative writing class taught by Chris Strickling. Susie enjoys writing about what it’s like to live with Cerebral Palsy. Her ultimate goal in life is to make people stop thinking of C.P. as a disability and show them that it is just another way of living.
Marda Bartel moved to Austin from Massachusetts when she married three years ago. She joined Actual Lives in May of 2007 and is now hooked. She has found that Actual Lives performers and directors are a caring and supportive group of people who work as a team to bring out each other's full potential and she is glad for the privilege of performing with them. "It has been a pleasure to work with Alison on the movement pieces and to have the expertise of Bob, an Emmy-winning director, helping us with our acting. I continue to learn so much from working with everyone involved.” Marda has bachelors and masters degrees in music education, keyboard performance and pedagogy, church music and music therapy and has worked in these fields for many years. She currently teaches guitar classes at a local private school as well as teaching private students in her home. She serves on the Austin Council of the Blind and is a member of the Depression and Bipolar Alliance and of Guide Dog Users of Texas. She plans to return to training with a new dog this summer.
Regina Blye is currently the Executive Director of the Texas State Independent Living Council (SILC) in Austin, and is considered the youngest executive director of any SILC across the country. She has over 10 years experience working in the independent living movement, helping to create change for people with disabilities. She graduated from West Texas A&M University with a degree in Mass Communications. Regina has over 12 years experience working in the media field as an award winning television news producer and radio D.J. In 2002 she received the distinguished Barbara Jordan Media Award for a Media Person with a Disability. She is the former Ms. Wheelchair Texas and the third runner up in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. This is her first Actual Lives show.
David Dauber joined Actual Lives in December of 2005, but has been a long time fan and supporter to his wife, Terri Stellar, and other cast members. His acting experience comes from stage performances in both high school and college. He is always on the look-out for new stage, screen, and microphone opportunities, as performing is his drug of choice for a great rush. David has never let his Cerebral Palsy suppress any of his goals or dreams. Including his greatest dream come true, his son, Denver. In addition to Actual Lives, you can view David's voice-over work profiled at daviddauber.voice123.com.
Terry Galloway is a hearing impaired writer, director
and performer who has received grants in writing, directing and performing from,
among others, the
Carol Gilson is a founding member of PeACh (Performance Art Church) and singer in the now defunct band Olive. "For many years performance was a way of life for me. At that time I had a deep need to let the world know who I was. I shed that skin five years ago and I feel honored to have an opportunity to try it on again in a new form. Thank you to my friends for their undying support in my process and to a boy I met once who encouraged me to take the Actual Lives challenge."
Jeff Marsh is a 38-year-old Entertainment Consultant with Spina Bifida. "I have always been interested in writing, directing and stage performance as a way to express my thoughts on issues and my experiences as a person with a disability. This was the opportunity I have been waiting for."
Mike Mesko was born a long time ago and lives in Austin now. He goes on stage once in awhile and lives in a world all his own. He was active in local professional theatre in Austin for many years. This is his third year with Actual Lives.
Juan Munoz joined Actual Lives in February 2008 after he was recruited by Susie Angel. Juan is good at telling stories and has a lot of them to tell. Other hobbies include going to baseball games, playing Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, and taking trips in his van.
Allison Orr, Choreographer Allison Orr, Artistic Director of Forklift Danceworks, is known for her dances that include non-traditional performers, such as dogs and their owners, firefighters, Italian waiters, and Elvis impersonators. Orr was named Best Choreographer of 2003 by the Austin Critics Table. Her work has been funded by the City of Austin, the Texas Commission of the Arts, The Austin Community Foundation, and the City of Venice, Italy. In 2005 she received a commendation for her work with visually impaired people from the City of Austin Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities. Orr received an MFA in Choreography and Performance from Mills College and is currently on the dance faculty of Austin Community College Learn more about Orr and her company, Forklift Danceworks, at www.forkliftdanceworks.org
Sharon Ploeger has been a freelance interpreter for 15 years. She’s been involved with Actual Lives for six years, and continues to be our favorite. She is married and has two children, and has learned so much about the reality of life from the actors in the show.
Gene Rodgers is an International Argonaut who writes about his travel experiences. He was recently a member of Team Everest and embarked on an expedition to Mount Everest. Gene is an independent producer and makes TV shows about extreme sports for people with disabilities and airs them on Public Access TV in Austin. He also makes and sells DVDs of his shows. Gene became a 2008 Dewey Winburne Honoree at the SXSW International Interactive Conference held in Austin, Texas. The award is for using technology to provide a community service. Visit Gene's websites (will open in new browser window) at www.genosplace.org.
Danny Saenz is an artist and a disability rights activist.
Terri Stellar has taken an active role in tenaciously fighting for disability rights and community. She is a member of the original cast of Actual Lives and has performed in many shows, including the VSA arts DC show and an award winning cast performance at Frontera Fest. She’s also married to that hunky guy in the cast, David Dauber. Her proudest title is
Cammie Stephan has toured the US extensively with dance, musicals, and multi-media productions as as Stage manager, Lighting Designr and/or Production Manager. She hails from Arizona, but New ork City has always been home base. She has been the Production Stage manager with Actual Lives since ts inception in 2000.
Billy Stearns was actually seduced into Actual Lives thinking that it was a writer's workshop, not realizing he had been performing on a world stage all of his life. He began writing stories very young and was once a monthly contributor to a local publication for fictional prose. He thought if he could write about any subject except himself, he could forget who he really was and make other's see him as he wanted them to. He wrote to escape his world and become a part of a better one that he saw in his mind. He wrote to excite those he could not otherwise excite, to create a people and place and time of events, capturing an imaginary moment he could only dream about and wished to share with others. What Billy understands now is that he was always writing about himself. He was the lion tamer, the football player, the rock star, and the dashing hero ! who always had the right words to say in times of need. Billy was the wanted son, protective brother, and independent child he always wrote about. It is in large part due to Actual Lives that Billy is now all of these things - because he knows he can be.
Chris Strickling founded Actual Lives in collaboration with deaf performance artist Terry Galloway and Celia Hughes, Executive Director of VSA arts of Texas in August, 2000. She served as co-director, writing facilitator and producer through the fall of 2004, when she became the primary artistic director of the project. Autobiographical performance by disabled artists was the focus of her doctoral dissertation, and she has published several articles about the work of Actual Lives.
Robert Tolaro just completed Stage Managing Tommy Tune, Ray Benson, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett in the Gala opening of the Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Texas. He has been the Production Stage Manager for the Greater Tuna Corporation since 1991. His national tours include Greater Tuna, A Tuna Christmas, Red, White and Tuna starring the original Broadway Cast of Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, The Foreigner starring Fannie Flagg, The Fantasticks, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He also had the honor of stage managing last year’s Texas Medal of the Arts ceremony honoring Walter Cronkite, Paul Baker, Van Cliburn, and others. He has worked in venues all over the country including the Fords Theatre, the Kennedy Center, and the Booth Theatre on Broadway. Robert co-founded the Callier Theater of the Deaf in Dallas and was Artistic Director of the Fairmount Theatre of the Deaf in Ohio. He has directed over 45 productions including works for the Austin Shakespeare Festival, Onstage Theatre, Different Stages and St. Edward’s University. Robert holds an MFA in Theatre from Trinity University, was a member of the Dallas Theatre Center acting company, and received an Emmy Award for directing a signed and voiced production of The Miser, which aired on National PBS stations. Bob has been a member of Actors Equity Association for over 20 years.
Tanya Winter joined Actual Lives in 2005 and began serving on the VSA Arts of Texas board in 2006. She is short, sassy and has been known to strip down to her underwear to get her point across on stage. Tanya is a true humanitarian and spends most of her time contributing to the disability rights movement.
Actual Lives Austin is one of several programs from VSA arts of Texas to bring people with disabilities complete access to cultural, artistic, and educational venues, programs and employment.