Greetings, my name is Andrew Tubbs, and I’m a 4th year Music major with minors in German and Business. Over the past 10 weeks I have had the privilege to intern at Phamaly Theatre Company. Phamaly Theatre Company is the only company in America which casts all of its shows solely with individuals with physical, emotional, and cognitive disabilities. I first learned about this company while I was in Alaska for a May Term class; a fellow classmate, who had just completed Wartburg West, told me about Phamaly. I huddled into the only corner of the house which had wifi, looked up Phamaly, and applied for an internship that day.
Throughout my time in Denver I didn’t do many of the “touristy” things that my colleagues enjoyed, mainly because of my online classes, studying for the GRE and working 259 hours for Phamaly between working in their office as well as the production. I viewed myself as a resident of Denver; I had my favorite coffee shop, my favorite bad restaurant, and my favorite bar to grab a beer after a long rehearsal. I may not have gone to the zoo, all of the museums, or hiking every weekend, but I feel as if I have truly integrated into this city.
Do I wish that I had the time to experience all these amazing parts of Denver and the surrounding area? Yes, however I cannot express how transformative my time was at Phamaly. My two passions in life are advocacy and art, and Phamaly allowed me to experience both. This summer Phamaly produced the show Cabaret, a production that many commented rivaled the Broadway revival. Cabaret is set in 1929 Berlin, four years before Hitler would rise to power. Despite an economic depression during the Weimar era, Berlin was at the height of a cultural and sexual revolution. This society nurtured the rising genre of the Cabaret, a genre which was centered on critiquing society through a bawdy variety show. With many soldiers returning from WWI with disabilities, Cabarets of disabled performers became popular. Once the National Socialist Party came to power, these clubs were the first to be shut down after being deemed as decedent. This history is what Phamaly tried to depict within our version of Cabaret.
The show Cabaret also depicts Kristallnacht as well as the beginnings of the Final Solution. The history of the disabled community has been conveniently been swept under the rug during this time period. The disabled community would be the first community taken by the Nazis through the T-4 Program. Through this program institutionalized mentally disabled children would either be starved to death or injected with lethal amounts of medication. It is estimated that 200,000 children were murdered through this program alone. In addition, the gas chambers and other methods used during the Holocaust would be tested on the disabled community. By producing the show Cabaret with people with disabilities, one inherently brings these issues to the forefront, forcing audiences to deal with images of this inconvenient history.
This summer I produced art that rivaled that found on Broadway at the same time I advocated for disability rights. My two passions combined into one. I met people at the company who will become lifelong friends and have influenced my own perception of disability. My entire life I have been searching for a company that understands disability, and I finally found that in Phamaly. This wasn’t a summer vacation; I dedicated everything I had to Phamaly and became a part of a community and company that I will continue to work with for years to come.