Regan Linton was a student performer and athlete at East High School in Denver before heading off to college at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In her junior year, she suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident, and became paralyzed from the chest down. She returned to Colorado, and in 2005, began performing on stage again with the Phamaly Theatre Company, an organization for actors with disabilities.
At a time in her life when she didn’t know if performing would be possible, Linton found new opportunities through Phamaly.
“Phamaly was the first place I felt welcome and able to explore my body as an instrument,” says Linton, now the artistic director of Phamaly Theatre Company.
Many actors with disabilities who come to Phamaly have a similar experience, Linton says, and it attracts a wide range of people. There’s Denver native and professional actor, Lucy Roucis, who began performing with Phamaly after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. There are also new performers, such as Aloukika Patro, who uses a wheelchair, and moved here from India with her family. “Her parents said she was able to reach her full potential here,” Linton says.
Formed in 1989 by five wheelchair users who were seeking more performance opportunities, Phamaly Theatre Company was originally known as the Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actors League. Now, it serves all people with any disability—physical, cognitive, emotional, or intellectual. There are opportunities for children to perform, and it offers acting classes for all ages.
Actors use a variety of mobility tools on stage, depending on their disabilities. Other than that, you won’t see many differences from other stage performances, says Linton.
“[Some might think] it’s going to be at a less-than-professional level, or it’s not going to be the same level of artistic quality,” Linton says. “That’s where Phamaly has continued to blow people away. Our actors have a unique set of tools and skills, which actually make our work more innovative.”
Editor’s Note: While Phamaly performances are temporarily on hold due to COVID-19, the actors shared a pandemic parody of the song “Seize the Day” from the musical Newsies; watch it here. On October 18, 2020, Phamaly presents their annual fundraiser virtually. See local performers with disabilities share their musical and comedic talents in Big Night! “The Show Must Go On” (free and family friendly).
How Families Can Help Phamaly
Adult and responsible children volunteers are regularly needed. Fill out an online application to get started. Volunteers can:
- Assist performers backstage
- Serve as an usher in the theater lobby
- Help with fundraising
- Do outreach in the community
- Perform administrative tasks as needed