DENVER -- While the actors who make up the Phamaly Theatre Company refine their performances on-stage, artistic director Regan Linton watches from the back of the theater.
She knows the challenges the actors in her company face. She's the first artistic director of a major theater company to use a wheelchair.
“I realized when I was getting on stage to perform the biggest social change I was making was because I had a different body with my wheelchair,” she explained to Denver7 contributor Connor Long.
Regan grew up in Denver and played soccer and softball at East High School.
Despite being shy, she said she always had the acting bug.
“I always enjoyed performing, but a lot of the time it was just in my bathroom singing songs,” she remembered. “I got to junior year and I had to choose between soccer and the high school musical and I chose the musical.”
Paralyzed from the neck down in a car wreck her junior year of college, Regan connected with Phamaly while working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Denver.
“So it was really finding Phamaly that allowed me to take the risk of getting back on stage and re-examine and re-discover what my body was as a theatrical instrument,” Regan said. “It was just discovering that if I'm going to do a dance, I can hold on with one hand and go spin around a person in a way that is more smooth and graceful than a person who is on two feet can do it.”
Regan redirected her energy toward acting, taking stage rolls across the country and showing the creativity that people with disabilities possess.
“I think that disability is just one more facet of being a human. It doesn't determine your identity, it's not your entire identity. It's just one more piece of who we are,” she added.
As Phamaly's new artistic director, Regan hopes to show other theater companies how simple it is to accommodate actors with disabilities.
“In the rehearsal process sometimes we'll give just a little longer break. In the rest of the theater world it might be five to ten minutes. We may add a couple of minutes on just so people have time to go to the bathroom or do whatever they need to do,” Regan said. “In terms of wardrobe, it's often designing a costume so you're not using a bunch of complicated buttons.”
But before she can change the world, Regan's primary focus is to be a role model to Phamaly's current stable of actors.
“Phamaly is truly a gem that other cities do not have,” she said.