Amy and the Orphans
Presented to Lindsey Ferrentino, Jamie Brewer, and Edward Barbanell
Over the history of film and theater, the portrayal of disability and the casting of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in leading roles have been lacking, both in authenticity and in variety. In rare instances when their stories are told, characters with disabilities are often cast in either a negative light or become subjects of pity or belittlement. Further, it is all-too common for actors without disabilities to play the role of an individual with disabilities on stage or screen.
Lindsey Ferrentino – a New York-based, critically acclaimed playwright wrote Amy and the Orphans, the first and only known Broadway or Off-Broadway production to feature actors with I/DD in leading roles, which went on to be produced first at The Yale School of Drama and then later at Roundabout Theatre Company, directed by Tony nominee Scott Ellis.
Amy and the Orphans presented the national theater-going audience with a positive and powerful portrayal of an individual I/DD in a leading role. That, added to the fact that the character with I/DD is played by someone with I/DD, is a powerful advocacy tool and a means to change public perceptions on what people with I/DD can achieve. The play provides a positive message of social inclusion and serves as a message against segregation and institutionalization.
The play tells the story of three siblings – one of whom, Amy, has I/DD – who come together in the wake of their father’s funeral for a road trip. In a humorous and truthful portrayal of a mixed ability sibling dynamic, Amy and the Orphans shatters type-cast stereotypes in its depiction of Amy, the main character with Down’s Syndrome whose wit and strength make her unflappable despite her siblings’ dramatics.
To make the show more inclusive, playwright Lindsey Ferrentino wrote a male version of the play, so that actors of both genders could be included in the production. When the play was titled Amy and the Orphans, it starred Jamie Brewer. When the play was titled Andy and the Orphans (for matinee performances) Edward Barbanell played the role.