Culture  Free fallin’

Skydive destigmatizes disability through theatre

Ever since I learned that it was possible to jump out of a plane and survive, I’ve had an imperishable yearning to do it. Skydiving has flourished as an extreme sport, perhaps because of the adrenaline rush it provides, perhaps because of the potential fulfillment of a death wish, but most likely because of human beings’ innate desire to fly.

Realwheels Theatre Company aspires to create and produce world-class art that deepens the audience’s understanding of the disabled experience. The company pursues the universal desire of flying with its innovative play, Skydive, as a means of furthering its raison d’être. Skydive has conquered the West Coast – Vancouver and Calgary – racking up stellar reviews and award nominations and wins, and has finally landed in Montreal for us to enjoy.

The two-actor play unfolds in the 30 seconds of a skydiving free fall, frequently reverting back to moments that preceded the jump. With the technological help of ES Dance Instruments, the characters rarely touch their feet to the stage. Morgan, played by the quadriplegic James Sanders – the founder of Realwheels – is the older brother; Bob Frazer plays Dan, Morgan’s hermetic, agoraphobic, younger sibling.

Morgan, a middle-aged couch-surfer, acts as Dan’s therapist. He decides that the ultimate therapy technique for his younger brother is to jump out of a plane and face his fears. The two brothers embark on a trip down memory lane and discover what caused their falling-out as adults, reconnecting as brothers as a result.

Skydive consists of a wry and witty screenplay, very believable actors, and an incredibly pert eighties soundtrack (from Tom Petty to Corey Heart), but the underlying message is of a more serious nature. Skydive attempts to defy attitudinal barriers that persons with disabilities often face. Sanders doesn’t try to overcompensate for his lack of physicality by presenting himself as a excessively intelligent. In fact, the character of Morgan is lacking not only in smarts, but in all aspects of life. The able-bodied Frazer plays a quirkier, neurotic character who is very intelligent, but manifests all sorts of psychological problems. Skydive destigmatizes disabilities by demonstrating that all people have them, from phobias to paralysis.

Skydive has everything to do with physicality; the actors swing vertically and horizontally throughout, and break out into classic dance moves at times. If the constant movement isn’t enough to keep your attention, the sharp and amusing dialogue is.

Para means “beyond” in Latin, and in my opinion, Skydive is a para-fantastic show. The play not only maximizes the physical ability of quadriplegics, but also allows two actors to fulfill the innate human desire to fly – for 90 minutes straight.

Skydive plays at the Centaur Theatre in the Old Port, and runs until December 7. Visit for more information on schedules and prices.