Experiencing What Blind Theatrical characters Experience on stage

Able News                January 2023   Page 11

Audiences ‘See’ Blindness in ‘Odd Man Out’

By David Block

A group of Hispanic New York based actors recently presented the world premiere of the immersive production, “Odd Man Out” at the Bristol Riverside Theatre (BRT) in Bristol, Penn. The show was presented by Teatro Ciego (Theatre for the Blind) and Theatre C. The story was about Alberto Rinaldia played by Gonzalo Trigueros, a blind jazz musician flying from New York back home to Argentina. During the flight, Alberto shared his New York experiences with some of the passengers. However, throughout the show, the theatre was dark in order for the audience to get a taste of Alberto’s world. Sitting in the dark was unquestionably difficult for most audience members, but preparing to perform in a pitch black theatre was also challenging for a lot of the cast members. Despite the cast’s struggles they ended up empathizing with blind people and their ways of living in a fully sighted world. “Before I played a blind character, I had to do a lot of research,” said Trigueros. “It helped that our co-director, Facundo Bogarin is blind.” The rest of the cast and crew were fully sighted. Being in “Odd Man Out” gave Trigueros empathy for a condition outside of his own. “That’s a beautiful thing about acting; to be able to immerse yourself in the lives of people who are different,” he said. This was Trigueros’s first time having to take orders and direction from a blind person. “It was wonderful,” said Trigueros. “I have to admit it was scary to see Facundo move around so well on stage.” For seven years, Bogarin directed fully sighted actors. “Odd Man Out’s” other co-director Carlos Armesto said that actors always showed him respect because of the confident way that he carries himself. “He knows what he is doing at all times,” said Armesto.

Andres Montejo, who portrayed passenger Christian, recalled the early days of rehearsing in the dark, “The first day we rehearsed in the dark, I remember lifting my hand very close to my face and I couldn’t tell that it was there. I remember that that was a very daunting moment. It took us time to learn how to safely move in the dark without hurting anyone. We started doing different processes of identifying the space with touch and sound. It was a long process of getting comfortable with that. We had a total of 32 rehearsals.” “It was an incredible experience for me to not only be taught by Facundo but to also deal with him like he was one of us.” He soon stopped looking at him as a blind person but as the show’s co-director. He learned to view people with disabilities like he did everyone else. The cast hopes to perform this show in New York. A different version of the show was slated to have debuted at the Argentinian consulate in New York City in 2020, but plans fell through due to the pandemic. “In 2021, we did an at home (virtual) version with the piece,” said Armesto. “Audiences watching the show virtually were encouraged to wear blindfolds and headphones to experience a live audio experience in total darkness.” Armesto elaborated that at the end of 2021, they did a semi-live/virtual version of “Odd Man Out” in New York. Armesto said that Alberto’s story coupled with the way that the show was presented, intrigued the live audiences.

(Note, to access the photo that goes with this article and/or to access the January 2023 issue of Able News, log onto https://ablenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/2023-JAN-LI-1.pdf ) (You will find this article on page 11.)