On March 18, the Institute on Disabilities presented a reading of its new play, A Fierce Kind of Love.  On Wednesday, May 22, self-advocates are invited to see a video recording of the play at a special reception hosted by Vision for Equality.  

At the reception, you will meet some members of the cast and creative team. After the screening, we will talk about the play, and the importance of telling the stories of the Intellectual Disability Movement.

10am Coffee and Danish
10:30am  Introduction
10:45am Screening of A Fierce Kind of Love
11:30am  – 12pm Discussion

Event is free but space is limited! RSVP on or before May 17 to:
Kathy Foy | Vision for Equality
718 Arch Street, 6 N Philadelphia, PA 19104
Tel. 267.773.5285

If you need special accommodations, including ASL interpretation,
please tell us on or before May 15, 2013.

For more information about A Fierce Kind of Love, visit http://www.disabilities.temple.edu/voices/performs


By David Bradley,

Director, A Fierce Kind of Love

“Thank you for sharing these beautiful stories. Keep being ‘good trouble-makers.’”

–A comment on the “Town Hall Wall” at the reading of A Fierce Kind of Love

At the first public reading of A Fierce Kind of Love on March 18th at the Christ Church Neighborhood House, the line that probably got the biggest laugh was this one, from the character of a self-advocate (performed by Michael McClendon, who has an intellectual disability and works at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple): “I don’t like the term self-advocate. I want people to say he was a troublemaker. But he was a good troublemaker. He got things done. He wasn’t afraid to speak what was on his mind.”

The laughter was a mix of recognition, affirmation and shared provocation. The audience savored the power they saw taking center stage.

We’ve often been told throughout the process thus far that the stories we’re telling have never been told, that this is unknown history. Theater-makers are often looking for a way to make a “first time” happen onstage. But usually those first times are within a scene: a first meeting, a first revelation, the first falling in love. With this play, the event itself is a first time.

The feeling at the reading was one of staking out new territory. In this event, theater meets history meets town hall. Artists without disabilities create with artists with disabilities. Parents of young children with disabilities meet the icons that paved the way for them. Stories of political agitation stand side by side with stories of 55-year-old bedtime rituals. I find myself continually challenging my assumptions and categories for making work, continually seeing new landscapes emerge. It’s invigorating. It’s hard—in all the good ways.

A musician friend of mine has a song with the refrain “Sometimes trouble is a gift.” That’s the spirit in which the audience embraced that “troublemaker” onstage Monday night. That’s the spirit with which we approach this opportunity—the challenging gift of the new, from content, to form, to collaborators.


It is exciting to realize that every day the entire creative team is deepening our understanding of the story in a way that transcends the words on the page- there is starting to be as much said in the silences as in the words.  Sometimes we will be talking through a particular detail in the script and that will ignite a discussion about our own lives- our own children and experiences as parents, our own family histories- and that eventually brings us back around to the people whose stories we are telling with a richer feeling of empathy, or wonder, or awe.  Today we launched into an examination of our own practices as theatre makers and raised questions about what it means to not simply tolerate difference but to accept, to embrace it, to allow it to change and inform the way that we work, the way that we think about making theatre.  Tomorrow we will dive into movement and music with this in mind: what does it mean to create a theatre event that does not privilege the spoken word?

Suli Holum


Great first day of rehearsal at the Neighborhood House! Today we welcomed James Sugg, who will be contributing original music, and Pat Sabato, production manager extraordinaire!

There was incredible energy in the room today, as our actors read through Suli Holum’s latest script. Included in the new material is the story of Nancy Greenstein and her daughter Robin. Warm, funny, and tender by turns, the material really came to life as read by Lee Etzold.

Had a great conversation over lunch with our facilitator Kelly George about what it means to make the transition from concerned individual to activist.

Looking forward to new revelations (and new material) tomorrow!ImageImage

small.mother and child.flat

We are just one week away from our first public reading of A Fierce Kind Of Love, a new play written by Suli Holum, and directed by David Bradley. Those of you familiar with University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) know that public performance is certainly a departure for a Center like ours.

So why pursue public performance?

The Institute on Disabilities prides itself on its ability to bring innovative programming to people with developmental disabilities and families.  We have had less success, however, in engaging the general public with our issues. Public performance offers us the opportunity to share our community’s rich (and in many ways hidden) history with a broader audience. It enables us to deepen connections by telling stories that are as compelling as they are universal.

When people ask me what the play is about, I tell them its about the parents who fought for the right to keep their children with disabilities at home, often at great personal cost.  I tell them it’s about ordinary people who became radicalized when they were told that schools couldn’t serve their children.  I tell them it’s about about people with disabilities who found their personal and collective voice, and used it to demand that institutions be closed, and their people freed. I tell them its about a fierce kind of love.

And who can resist a good love story?


Visionary Voices Performs is supported by a grant from The Heritage Philadelphia Program, The Pew Center for the Arts & Heritage to the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University.