An ordinary bloke
LIFE isn’t all about supermen overcoming the odds and happy endings, Ant Towler says.
The playwright, actor and director is looking to throw new light on what it’s like to live with a disability in his first live theatre show Defensability opening at the Maidment Theatre’s Musgrove Studio on April 9.
‘‘I wanted to show a dayto-day kind of guy – not a superman – someone who does work, goes home and has a beer.’’
Much like himself, he says. The 90-minute comedy follows disabled man Kelly Denton, played by Mr Towler, who aims to steal a Paralympian’s spot on the New Zealand team after the athlete stole his fiancee.
It is an ‘‘anti-rom-com’’ which sets out to breakdown the misconceptions people carry about disabled people.
The play is one born out of his own experiences with people’s often unintentional prejudiced comments, he says.
Mr Towler has cerebral palsy – a condition which affects his movement and posture but one which he doesn’t want to define him.
‘‘One of my friends says she forgets I’m disabled because I’m so open about it,’’ the 38-year-old says. ‘‘If you bring it up as a joke when you meet someone you’re opening it up to the person and they talk about it.’’
Bringing disability into everyday conversation is important because a lot of people are afraid of the subject, he says.
Members of the public have approached Mr Towler and tried to ‘‘faith heal’’ him in all places from fast food joints to the middle of busy streets.
But most of the play’s references to his own experiences are quite subtle.
Mr Towler’s character goes to a bar in the opening scene where he is told the only accessible toilet is a staff one which will require him to be supervised by a staff member if he uses it.
‘‘It’s all about finding that line. I didn’t want to be in people’s faces and bash everyone over the head with ‘this is what it’s like to be disabled’.’’
Mr Towler has written and directed eight short films, including Rollmance about a disabled couple who set out to consummate their relationship.
His attitude towards his disability is one that stems from growing up around mainly able-bodied people, he says.
‘‘I didn’t know any other way of dealing with it. Typically I don’t have much to do with the disabled community – I’ve just always found it very limiting.’’
The prospect of tackling disability on stage wasn’t daunting at first when he began writing the play three years ago but he admits he has grown a little nervous about people’s possible reactions. It will be shown at the fully accessible Musgrove Studio, where Mr Towler first performed 25 years ago.
Defensability, directed by central Auckland resident Anjula Prakash, runs from April 9 to 13 at The Maidment’s Musgrove Studio at the University of Auckland’s city campus.
Go to maidment.auck land.ac.nz/uoa or call 308 2383 for tickets. Door sales are available.
Tackling misconceptions: Ant Towler has written the comedy Defensability showing at the Musgrove Studio which he stars in as a disabled man on a crusade to win back his fiancee.
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