Around 2010, give or take a few years, Gail Dalrymple became committed to starting something that her son Peter would enjoy doing after he graduated high school. At the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Peter loved to act and interact with his drama teacher and fellow students. After investigating performing avenues in Austin, Gail knew what she had to do, and TILT Performance Company was born.
Launched in 2013, TILT premiered its first show in 2014, 45 Degrees, a devised musical for 7 actors. Performed in a small space at a local church, the rows were packed with family members, supporters and soon to be dedicated fans. As Gail remembers, the audience response “stunned me”. She thought she was doing this just for the actors like her son, but the first performance opened her eyes to the fact that the audience wanted more; they wanted to be invited into the world of the performer. Since then, TILT Performance Company has grown to offer 4 shows per year, with at least two devised productions, including one musical. As Gail remarked, “TILT morphed from providing a stage for actors to producing high quality theater by people with disabilities.”
TILT’s formula for success is simple: offer a tiered approach to participation. They devise one show for all abilities; one show is more artistically focused for the actors who are pursuing a career in performance, and they focus the others on the abilities of the cast interested and available at the time. They hope that in the near future, they will offer an additional tier to include one show for an inclusive cast of actors both with and without disabilities.
Although the group has grown beyond Gail’s wildest dreams, the threshold for people to participate has not changed. Actors are provided the accommodation they need to learn their lines. Some may not be able to read, some may not be able to memorize. Whatever the challenge, the group works together to figure it out, because as they say, the show must go on! Other truths about this kind of devised work include starting on the script development months before the scheduled production. Not everyone has to be in on the script development, but everyone should be in on the idea generation stage. That way everyone owns a piece of the script and are vested in the final production. They finalize the script at least 6 weeks prior to the performance date to allow for ample rehearsal, revision and refinement. As you know, moving from page to stage is not always a simple process!
After all is done—script, rehearsals, costumes, music, props, accommodations—the show is ready to open. Their next show is in February 2020, a devised piece entitled Game Night with TILT; come play with us! For more information on how you can become involved: https://www.tiltperformance.org/contact
Cheers to your 2020 season, and here’s to many more!