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Detour Theatre In Scottsdale Opens The Stage To People With Disabilities

By Stina Sieg
Published: Friday, June 2, 2017 - 8:03am
Updated: Tuesday, August 8, 2017 - 8:10am

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Detour singer with ukelele player
(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Twice a year, Detour Theatre Company puts on professional musicals - with a cast made up of people with disabilities or other issues that would leave them locked out of traditional theater.

It was one of those final, frenzied rehearsals before the opening night of “The Addams Family” musical. The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts was filled with the famous sound of those fingers snapping.

At least everyone in Detour Company Theatre who could snap their fingers were.

Down syndrome, autism, brain damage — everyone in the cast has something that keeps them from succeeding in a traditional theater setting.

But here, everyone is worthy of stage time — and real feedback, especially from Sam, the company’s founder, artistic director and the co-director of this show.

“I love you, and I’m really proud of you, and you really rocked all your lines,” she said to one of the two actresses playing Wednesday. “You were so good. And you even managed to cheat out the right way, OK?”

Sam then gave the young, beaming woman a few suggestions about how to punch up her performance. Thin and small, Sam bounded up and down the stage for hours, all the while exuding mama bear love — and constructive comments.

“Most of all, Detour is about opportunity,” she said.

It’s an opportunity for her cast of 40 to have, what Sam calls, an “authentic” theater experience. That means months of working hard — memorizing lines, learning choreography. And it means the opportunity for everyone to do the best he or she can in two musicals a year.

“Our job is to make that learning and make that success still possible for you, even with that other thing,” she said. “You know, we all have things in our lives.”

But backstage, you don’t really see those things. More so, you see people. Happy people, like Sarah Rounds.

“I feel like I’m free when I’m on stage,” she said.

And Lance Winslow.

“I feel like I’m somebody who’s, like, a real star when I’m here, you know,” he said, “and I’m happy to have that.”

Leah Mapstead, now 23, has been part of Detour since she was a teenager — though she loved performing long before that.

“When I’m on stage I feel accomplished, I feel proud,” she said, “and I feel like I’m having fun with a bunch of my friends, being someone else for an hour and a half or so.”

detour actor coach pointing
(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Many of the coaches here are people who came to see a show - or to help out just once - and felt pulled to keep coming back. "It makes you love," said one coach.

But they’re not just friends here, Mapstead went on. They’re family.

“Brothers and sisters who work together as a team to put on miracles every, twice a year, at the Scottsdale Center,” she said.  

And maybe the miracles here aren’t really the shows – though it is amazing that so many people of different ages and abilities can come together to create something so sweet and fun. Maybe the miracles are how these productions affect everyone involved, not just the actors, but the coaches who shadow them on stage. And the audience.

Founder Sam has seen a lot of that in the 15 years she’s been doing Detour.

“And people leave singing, dancing, smiling, laughing,” she said.

And hopefully, the audience leaves with a new understanding of the performers they saw on stage.

“Because they see them as people, as actors, as entertainers, as human beings with a gift to share,” Sam said. “That’s all we all are, right?

You, me — and Sam’s son, Christopher, who you might spot right away in the show, as the tall guy playing Lurch. 

Detour’s production of the “The Addams Family” runs Friday through Sunday.