Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

Connect with us on Instagram
Join Our Newsletter
Stay up to date with all the NEIU News!

Embracing Vulernability: Seven-Minute Stories at Stage Center Theatre

Ashler Zigler
performers are sitting down and smiling during the q&a session with the lights on and the projector behind them is off; Left to Right: Robert Teverbaugh (director), Ben Saylor, Mary Hobein, Josh Friedberg, Suzanne Metzel, Stephen Donart (director), Joan Afton, Shui Sherard. Stephen Donart is holding a microphone in his right hand.

In a world that often celebrates perfection and strength, there is immense power in embracing vulnerability. This is especially true when it comes to sharing performances and stories that these individuals wrote for Tellin’ Tales Theatre’s “Hands Up! Body.” These narratives not only shed light on the challenges that they faced, but also highlight their resilience, courage, and richness of their experiences.

(Photo by Author) Set up of the Hands Up! Body performance; wooden hands in different skin tones with the words “Hands” and “Up” in front of the hands also made of wood in yellow. The “U” in “Up” has an arrow pointing upward. A blue-purple light is illuminating on the stage. There is a projector with a paused YouTube video of the program behind the wooden hands, which in the center reads “Tellin’ Tales Theatre Presents: HANDS UP! BODY (body written in red). A virtual presentation of original stories (below the video).” There is a microphone stand in front of the stage.

For adults with disabilities, sharing their performances and stories is an embodiment of this courage, offering a new window into their unique journeys and experiences that shape their lives. On Friday, March 8, 2024 in NEIU’s Stage Theatre Center, located in Building F near LWH, the audience saw just that.


In the narratives of adults with disabilities, common themes emerged, such as weaving together the complexities of identity, acceptance, and resilience. Within these hard-to-swallow stories, the performers included comic relief to lighten the tension of the audience. These stories often explored the intersections of disability with other aspects of identity, such as being a part of the LGBT+ community, navigating societal expectations of femininity and masculinity, and grappling with challenges such as bullying and body image struggles. 

Story continues below advertisement


These individuals demonstrated resilience through self-expression, empowering community support, and a passionate message of hope. Through these narratives, they challenge stereotypes, advocate for change, and inspire others to embrace their unique identities and journeys with courage and determination. 


At the end of the performance, the audience had the opportunity to reflect and ask questions to the performers. 


This performance was co-sponsored by NEIU’s Disability Studies Minor and University of Illinois Chicago’s Disability Cultural Center. Ashley Elrod, Northeastern Illinois University’s Disability Studies advisor, mentions that there is an opportunity for students to intern with Tellin’ Tales Theatre as a for-credit class that counts towards their degree. Any students interested in doing an internship in the summer or fall of 2024 are encouraged to reach out to Elrod ([email protected]). 


For more information about the performance, see the full program: Hands Up! Body Full Program


Tellin’ Tales Theatre is currently in the process of gathering writers and performers for their Young Adult Writers Workshop hosted in July 2024. This year’s theme is “Unleashed Truth,” led by Director Stephen Donart. 


“Young adults, with and without disabilities, are coached in developing a personal story around a common theme.  Each writer will explore the truths in their life that lead to emotion, insight, and realizations. Students come to learn writing techniques and how to develop their unique voice,” Donart said. “The stories will be developed in a six-week workshop via ZOOM. Workshops will be held Tuesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., starting June 4. This allows everyone to attend, no matter where they live. The program will culminate in a live performance on July 21 at Sulzer Regional Library.”


With MA degrees in Theater and Curriculum Instruction and Design, Donart has more than 30 years of experience teaching, directing, and performing for schools and the professional stage. For more information or to join, contact [email protected]


To help fund more performances like this, go to and click donate!

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Comments are subject to review for slurs and offensive language. Comments will not be edited except to modify profanity.
All NEIU Independent Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content