By Jack Vrtis, Anahita Pardiwalla, and Jacob Martella
Gail Dalrymple needed to find a place for her son, Peter Richter, to reach his potential.
Richter, who has Autism and is legally blind, found his niche on stage performing theater at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. However, upon graduation, landing a spot in a professional group would be a difficult task.
In response, his mother created one — the TILT Performance Group.
“There weren’t opportunities for people with disabilities,” Dalrymple said. “And after school, his world began to close in.”
Since it’s founding in September 2013, TILT has grown to a cast of 15 members. Each brings their own unique talent to the stage. With five productions under their belt, the troupe is set to hit the stage in a few months in a collaboration with the Austin Jewish Repertory Theater.
Even with all of the accolades, Dalrymple’s original goal for starting TILT has been a success. Richter has been in four of the five productions, his favorite being “Free Patterns,” which the group performed in January. He found a place to be himself.
“It’s fun to do,” Richter said. “I want to keep doing it … It’s a good stress.”
TILT is home for many more than just Richter.
Toby Al-Trabulsi became involved theater in high school, participating in UIL One-Act Play competitions. Being blind made it difficult for him to continue performing. TILT fostered his growth on and off stage.
“[I’ve had] a lot of new experiences,” Al-Trabulsi said.
Similarly, despite being in a wheelchair, Kristin Gooch said the best part of TILT has been gaining self confidence.
“I love performing and I love interacting with the audience,” Gooch said.
Each actor had their own share of difficulties. Al-Trabulsi said the hardest thing for him on stage is his placement.
“It’s easy to think about, ‘Oh, I should be here,’ but in actuality it doesn’t align with what’s in the script sometimes, especially if I don’t practice it beforehand,” Al-Trabulsi said.
The group will perform “As Butterflies,” a musical based off of Jewish experience during the Holocaust. The first performance is set for May 6, one day after Yom Hashoah, the Jewish Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust.
Dalrymple sees a much brighter and broader future for TILT. She hopes the group will be able to take their shows on the road around the Austin area, something that could happen sooner rather than later.
“I’ve would have never dreamed we could have gone as far as we have in this short period of time,” Dalrymple said.
The group is one of many for people with disabilities in the country. In addition, Dalrymlpe is planning to visit the Phamaly Theater Company in Denver to see how TILT can continue to grow.
“I just would love to see TILT something that became very established in the Austin theater community was known for the work that we do as well as the great courage and inspiration of the actors,” Dalrymple said.