Photo by Lauren B. Photography
Neither Leslye Orr nor her parents let her legal blindness get in the way of growing up like other teenagers, including "being 14 and driving a car in the high-school parking lot."
Orr shares her stories in What I Thought I Saw: Random Acts of Blindness! The work-in-progress opens the 2013 Fresh Ink series at Illusion Theater.
Orr is no stranger to presenting work about disability. For the past three decades, she has led performances of Hand in Hand, an interactive piece where audience members are asked to close their eyes and handle everyday objects while Orr shares stories about Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. The piece has been presented not just throughout the United States, but the entire world via Orr's work with the State Department.
Orr dedicates the piece to her parents. "They were incredibly supportive people. The show is made up mostly of stories about how clever they were and how through it, I had a typical life," she says.
It isn't Orr's first trip through the Fresh Ink series. Another one of her solo works, Women who Drink, started its life at the Illusion. "They are so good at helping you, from production advisors to giving you the place to do it. It's a way to try the show out in its feet," Orr says.
"She's coming back to us to work on a new piece that is really about her life," says Illusion's co-producing director Michael Robins. "It made sense to have it in Fresh Ink. She told us she had this idea, and we said that's great. Ten days later, she gave us the first draft. She is like Kevin Kling in that way. She has a project with an idea and then focuses on just that until she has a first draft."
While Robins has worked with Orr on the piece, she has enlisted her husband Zaraawar Mistry (the pair run Dreamland Arts in St. Paul) to direct.
Mistry "knows her work very well and he does wonderful work with solo performances. I'm very excited to see how that collaboration will work when we get to opening night," Robins says.
Through her work with the State Department, Orr has brought plays to countries around the world. That experience not only serves her well for the latest piece, but it has exposed her to a wide swath of cultures and styles. "I've done shows in pool halls and fancy theaters. Great theater is getting everywhere and we are promoting inclusion of the whole human family."
What I Thought I Saw: Random Acts of Blindness!
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday
Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, 8th Floor
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612.339.4944 or visit online.