There are several realities existing simultaneously. In one reality, you are seated in a theatre. The second reality occupies the stage, with a curtain and a fourth wall. Realwheels Theatre Company’s unique production Spine delves into still other realities: the realms of scientific possibility and virtual reality. Realwheels was founded by James Sanders shortly after he became quadriplegic during his theatre training at Simon Frazer University. According to Sanders, who will appear in Spine, Realwheels’ aim is to “deepen the audiences’ understanding of disability.“ Their shows are not the „triumph-over- adversity-by-excelling-at-other-things“ disability stories that tend to pop up. „What we want to do is more sneaky“, James says. „Disability is present, but it''s not the driving force.“ To Realwheels, it''s more of „a landscape upon which universal issues are debated onstage“. An example of the success of this approach is their earlier production, Skydive, which was nominated for five Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards and won three.
Spine is the tale of those who, due to disability or loneliness, try desperately to re-invent themselves through the use of theatre, avatars in the world of virtual reality or scientific experiments of questionable ethics. When dealing with different realities and different selves within these realities, which is the truer, more important version of the self, the created version (the virtual one, the one created through medical experimentation) or the initial version, (the physical form which can be flawed or disabled)? “This is the essential question we''re asking“, Sanders states, “Is your core the sum of your parts for others to define or is it you, by your own self-definition? It''s the individual''s right to self-define and I would think that is more real. If we had more respect for the self-definition and less reliance on the perception, we''d have less problems with body image.“ Anais West, 17 years