Every year at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, there are always a number of shows with intriguing titles and premises. This one, The Virginity of Astronauts, attracted my attention, because some of its performers have disabilities. Naturally, I had to ask the show’s director and writer Daniel P. Reiva some questions.
Access Press: How did you get involved with the disability community, at least enough to hire four disabled performers in your show?
Daniel P. Reiva: All the performers in my show are volunteers. I have been working with performers who have disabilities since college. When I cast plays, I cast a wide net for auditions and I seek the best performer for a part. Over the years, I happen to have had many actors who have disabilities, but they have been selected because of their talent. Also, I have been fortunate to be able to do workshops with Anodyne Arts and often conduct my rehearsals at their location. I have also been involved with Artists With Disabilities Association (AWDA) for the past two years, which involves an incredible opportunity to network and work with other artists. AWDA has been also kind enough to provide me with a small grant to help finance the production.
AP: The Virginity of Astronauts is an odd title. Can you tell me what it’s about? What prompted you to write it?
Reiva: The title is from a book about NASA policies on astronaut sexuality. I applied this title to the play Ion by Euripedes, a 21st Century update on the story. The Greek name “Ion” is the same word we use for sub-atomic particles (ion). But in Greek mythology, Ion was the result of Apollo’s rape of Ion’s mother. Other ancient myths are wrapped around this story. In addition to poetry, drama and comedy, original music has been developed by various artists for the show.
AP: What do you hope that audiences seeing the show would get out of it?
Reiva: First, I hope that audiences enjoy the show and the many different talents that are showcased in it. Second, I hope audiences will see the cast as a reflection of the community as they translate this ancient story to a modern audience. As with ancient Greek drama, the play is a theater of humankind, invoking ancient rituals and imaging futuristic fantasies to express deeply held beliefs about what aspects of identity and consciousness can survive in the universe. More information about the show can be found at the Minnesota Fringe Festival’s website (fringe festival.org).
AP: Any last words on disability, theater, or whatever’s close to your heart?
Reiva: My cast members, with or without disability, comprise a reflection of society and give the performance a cultural credibility. It is a play about both the ancient Greek mythology and the mythologies being created today by modern civilization.
AP: Thank you for your time, and good luck with your show!
Editor’s note: Access Press is pleased to have author and playwright Raymond Luczak as a regular theater reviewer. Mr. Luczak www.raymondluczak.com will be reviewing an ASL-interpreted plays the heading “From the front row.”