Queens Theatre presents ‘Forward Festival’

Uplifting the artistry of deaf/disabled performers

From circus to musical theater performances, audiences of Queens Theatre can expect a series of diverse, captivating performances as part of their first-ever Forward Festival of the Arts.

The goal of the festival is to highlight and uplift the artistry of deaf and disabled performers, and will run from May 13 through May 22.

The festival will feature Omnium Circus, Full Radius Dance, composer Molly Joyce, Phamaly Theatre Company’s ‘The Spitfire Grill,’ and The Apothetae/New American Voices Reading Series.

Festival events will include audio description, open captioning, ASL interpretation, and other accessibility services.

Queens Theatre’s executive director Taryn Sacramone said that this festival is an extension of their “Theater for All” initiative, which provides more opportunities for
deaf and disabled individuals.

“In 2016, we gave some consideration to whether we were truly fulfilling our mission of reflecting and celebrating the full diversity of the community we serve,” she said. “Theater for All includes training programs for disabled actors as well as children, plays that were written by disabled playwrights or
feature disabled characters.”

“We are excited to present a festival with such a range of disciplines represented,” she continued. “I know audiences will be thrilled
by these performances.”

Omnium Circus will present “I’Mpossible,” the story of a young boy who dreams of joining the circus.

Rob Lok, a Flushing resident who portrays a clown in the act, said he is proud to be part of an inclusive, diverse, multi-abled, multi- ethnic company.

“When I started in the circus years ago, there was a certain look of what a circus performer is. But beauty comes in different sizes, shapes, and perspectives, and Omnium’s vision is that everyone’s beautiful and can be included,” Lok said.

Lok is Chinese American and was raised very traditionally, but is so glad to serve as an inspiration for other young Asian Americans who are interested in the perform- ing arts.

“Representation matters,” he emphasized. “We see deaf acrobats, disabled hand balancers, as well as dancers and aerialists. We’re just showing what we do; we’re just ordinary people.”

“The live conversation we have with the audience is priceless, which is also part of Omnium’s mission of just being there for people and entertaining them. And that’s the best thing about being a clown, is having that beautiful conversation with our audience from eight to 80 years old. It means so much to us.”