50 Years After Its Debut, A Blind Actor is Cast In ‘Wait Until Dark’

The promotional poster for Wait Until Dark, featuring the main character, Suzy, at the forefront.

c/o The Original Theatre Company

When Chicago’s Court Theater produced Wait Until Dark on stage in 2008, they asked me to be a technical consultant. Nine years later, progress! For the first time ever, a blind actress is playing the leading role.

Wait Until Dark was written for the stage but is better known for the 1967 film version. Audrey Hepburn played the lead role: a newly-blind woman alone at home who is terrified when a psychopath breaks into her apartment.

I loved being a tech consultant, but when I bragged about the actress playing the Audrey Hepburn character coming over to watch how I move around our apartment, or when I shared some of the questions handsome actors (why picture them otherwise?) had been asking me on the set, my friends would inevitably ask, “So why don’t they just have you play the part?”

The easy answer was that I am not an actor and don’t know a thing about acting. The more complicated answer was that back then, even if I’d studied acting, I wouldn’t have been considered: actors with disabilities were not getting many roles on stage or in Hollywood nine years ago.

But that’s beginning to change. last year I wrote two posts about actors with disabilities scoring major parts:

The CEO here at Easterseals had an article in The Huffington Post last year, too, touting A&E’s Born This Way (a show chronicling the lives of young adults with Down syndrome) after it received an Emmy for best unscripted reality television series. And then there’s four-foot-five actor Peter Dinklage. A star on HBO’s Game of Thrones, the accomplished actor won an Emmy for his role as Tyrion Lannister.

Fast forward to today. Actor Mickey Rowe is one of the first actors with autism to play a character with autism on a major professional stage: he’s playing the lead role in the Tony award-winning play Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Indiana Repertory Theatre before it opens at New York’s Syracuse Stage October 25.

And yes, finally, nine years after my debut as tech consultant, for the first time ever, an actress who is blind has debuted as the lead in Wait Until Dark — British actress Karina Jones lost her sight as a young teenager.

I got in touch with Karina after she landed the Audrey Hepburn role, and she shared a link to an interview acknowledging her surprise at learning she’s a first. “It’s 2017 and yet I am the first blind actress to take the role of a blind person in a play that has been around since the 60s. Why?” More from the interview:

“Producers and directors should give disabled roles to disabled actors. A blind person wouldn’t be auditioned for, say, Desdemona – we’re not there yet – but with roles that are written as disabled or impaired I think it is only fair that they should be played by disabled actors. In this play I’ve totally got an advantage [over a sighted actress] because I’ve got a lot of shorthand. I’ve got a head start because I have real insight into the character. Playing this part is, for me, an amazing thing; a real push forward for equality. It’s brilliant.”

The play opened at Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne on August 24, 2017 and has been touring ever since. The show opens in Exeter next week and continues its UK tour until December. For tickets and more information, visit www.waituntildark.co.uk.

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