Contributed by Vania Huang
From December 5-10, Don House, Gord Tulloch, and 3 Stage Door actors, Greg, Nick and Colin, along with Brandon Siemens from See Together Media, visited Zeno Mountain Farm in Lincoln, Vermont to attend a creative retreat about media and messaging. Zeno is a community built around projects that foster friendships, including art, film, theatre, sports, music and adventure. In collaboration with the folks from Zeno Farm, the Stage Door folks explored the use of media and how it can be used to challenge public perception and bring awareness to persons with diverse abilities through messages that push the boundaries of traditional thinking. They looked at the use of commercials to deliver a concise message in a short amount of time, and even made their own!
We had the pleasure of sitting down with the Stage Door crew and hearing about their experience at Zeno. The five guys were among 23 others who had all come from different places to attend the retreat, and with whom they had the opportunity to get to know over the course of the five days. To their surprise, Zeno Mountain Farm didn’t house any farm animals or crops, but it did have a large barn where the group spent much of their time, sharing ideas and bonding. The decision to create commercials was formed from the idea to deliver the highest impact within the shortest amount of time. Together, the Stage Door crew worked as a group to successfully create a mock commercial for their original beer brand idea. The result of their collaborative effort was a video that was both effective and humorous, and we could tell how much thought they had put into it.
This retreat served as a catalyst for open and honest discussion about the portrayal of disability in the media and the lines that are often blurred between acting and representation. Thus, the purpose of their messaging became less about disability alone, and more about being seen as individuals who are valued and celebrated as pieces in the unique tapestry of people and relationships. But don’t mistake the trip to be all work and no play; the gang enjoyed a bonfire, movie night, snowy views and delicious food, and they even got up at eight o’clock every morning to do yoga! Colin recalled of their stay at Zeno, “I felt really welcome there, really supported and loved. It felt good.” At this, Nick and Greg nodded their heads in agreement. There was such a fondness and nostalgic sentiment in the way they spoke about their trip that we couldn’t help but feel wistful about missing out!