Sam’s journey to starting the Detour Company Theatre began with a simple question. Her developmentally disabled son, who works as the Theatre Arts Coordinator at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf, visited her at work one day and asked “When is it going to be my turn?” to be on the stage.
She looked for theatre opportunities for disabled people and came up empty. So, she took a leave of absence to begin her own theatre group in the mid-2000s and never looked back.
Early on, with help from friends and colleagues, she staged three plays through a brief association with a social program for adults with developmental disabilities. After those productions, in late 2001, she broke off and started the Detour Company Theatre to provide performance opportunities to disabled people. Detour was officially incorporated in January 2002.
“There was no place for these people to even audition,” Sam says. “[The group] provides a place where they can risk, and they can dream, and they can dare to tackle something that seems impossible. It’s about opportunity.”
The greatest asset Detour utilizes as a nonprofit organization is the Scottsdale Center for the Arts (SCA), which provides the group with performance space and a tech crew. “Without [SCA] we wouldn’t be able to survive,” Sam says. Detour’s association with SCA also enables the organization to have a greater presence in the community.
In addition to SCA, Detour has also received a lot of support from other theatres, who help the group by sharing props, set pieces, etc. And Detour shares back as well.
Right now, Detour hosts a beginning program that meets on Mondays. This group is for people who are just starting off or who want to act but may not be able to fully succeed on the stage (for instance, they may want to do improv instead).
The mainstage program is split in half this year. One half is being led by Sam and will perform Disney’s Newsies from January 10-12. The other half will be doing a different play the same weekend, but Sam is keeping the title of that performance a secret.
Detour also offers a traveling company, a summer program, and Detour intensives, which are five-week workshops that are more rigorous and focus on one aspect of theatre.
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities at the theatre, from sewing costumes, building sets, etc. Detour is also looking for teachers. The public, too, can become a part of their company.
“What makes Detour unique is the family it is,” Sam says. “There are companies who help specific groups, like theatre groups for the blind or for the deaf. But we serve all of them. We take in everyone and put them onto the stage together, so we have interpreters and audio describers and mobility aids. We all watch out for each other, and we all learn to respect one another. The story they have together is just as good as the story they tell on stage.”
For more: detourcompanytheatre.org.