Duo brings life with cerebral palsy to the stage

October 16, 2011 7:12:43 AM PDT
A Chicago area man with cerebral palsy and his personal assistant are bringing their real-life adventures to stage with music and a lot of humor.

Their show "Handicap This" will challenge audience members' thinking about people with disabilities and increase awareness about people with severe physical disabilities.

Tim Wambach, 37, and Mike Berkson, 22, are rehearing for their upcoming shows at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Wambach met Berkson, who has cerebral palsy, in 2001 when he applied for a job as a school aid.

"Then Dan Walsh, who is the student services person at Springlake Middle School, said to me, 'You know, there's a kid coming next year his name is Mike Berkson and I think you guys would really get along well.' I met Mike that summer and we've in some way, shape or form been together ever since," Wambach said.

In 2008, they came up with the idea of sharing their story.

"We enlisted the help of our friend Molly Mulcrone, and she helped write the script. She wrote the first script and since then, she finished that in September 2009 and since that first script we have continuously worked on it, changed it, tightened it, made it better," Wamback said.

"I like the word 'handicap' because disabled means you're not able to do something. Handicap just feels like you have something you have to deal with but there's nothing about ability," Berkson said.

In addition to performing, they also wrote a book called "How We Roll."

"We use that book as pretty much as a kind of foundation of where 'Handicap This' comes from. A lot of stories that are in the book are in the show, and what's cool about it is it's our life, and to turn that into a show isn't always the easiest thing to do but we've been able to take the best parts of certain obstacles and adversities and turn them into learning experiences, teaching experiences and entertaining moments," Wamback said.

They have upcoming performances at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts at 10 a.m. on October 18 and 20, and one at 8 p.m. on November 4. They hope to eventually take their show on the road.

"The Easter Seals out in LA has contacted us about potentially bringing us out there. Another organization in Canada has been talking about bringing us out. We were definitely looking to travel and are able to travel. We are a mobile show and we're ready to roll," Wamback said.

"It's a dream. It's really cool because we know each other really well so we're able to collaborate well and really take things from our real life and infuse it into the show. There's a lot of room for change so if something happens that we want to add in the show, we can add it. I think that's what makes it fun for both of us," Berkson said.


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