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Queens Theatre launches free training program for persons with disabilities

Vincent D'Onofrio teaches a class in front of students

Queens Theatre announced a new summer campaign in conjunction with Disability Pride Month, to support its Theatre for All professional actor training program, which has been breaking barriers by training early career professionals who identify as Deaf and Disabled to succeed in the performing arts.

Stage and screen star Vincent D’Onofrio, best known for his role in the hit television series Law & Order: Criminal Intent, has been an early champion of Theatre for All and taught method acting to TFA students since the program launched four years ago. D’Onofrio has promised to match the first $15,000 raised to support the fifth installment of the program this fall.

“With our Theatre For All training program, we provide an opportunity for Deaf and Disabled actors to receive inclusive, professional training to advance their careers. As producers ourselves, we have been able to expand our own artistic family, finding talented actors to work with on our own productions and projects,” said Queens Theatre Executive Director Taryn Sacramone.

She added, “We are extremely grateful to Vincent D’Onofrio not only for his generous pledge but for his active role since the start of the program. He is an extraordinary teacher, eager to support his students and TFA alumni, and he is committed to helping to continue what has become an important annual program at Queens Theatre. We have been proud to offer the program free of cost to the students who participate. The funds we raise through this campaign will go towards program costs – primarily teaching artists, accessibility services, and local travel.”

“While we have won many battles in the arts to advance diversity, we still struggle in many areas,” said Vincent D’Onofrio. “Deaf and Disabled artists are making strides, yet they are still not treated equally among artists. Theatre For All Training at Queens Theatre aims to change that, by supporting emerging artists, giving them opportunities to study the arts, and connecting them with teachers and mentors.  This program is working: I’ve seen students and alumni flourish. We need your help so that we can continue to support Deaf and Disabled artists to advance in the performing arts, including theatre, film, and other facets of storytelling. It’s time for Deaf and Disabled artists to be a strong part of the larger movement for diverse representation in the arts.”

“As the theater, film and television industries are evolving to become more inclusive and intentional about representing the lives of Deaf and Disabled people authentically on stage and on screen, we want to provide high-quality, accessible training and networking opportunities for disabled actors who will fill—and create—those roles,” Sacramone said.

Six years ago, Queens Theatre made an intentional effort to work with more artists from the Deaf and Disability communities and to learn from other cultural institutions who were offering more accessibility services to their patrons and audience members. Queens Theatre created an advisory board comprised of an integrated group of Disabled and non-Disabled individuals with backgrounds in theater, activism, academia and arts administration, and the outgrowth of that was the Theatre for All program – which launched in 2018. In addition to professional training for early career actors, TFA has included multiple presentations of short plays by Disabled playwrights, in-school performance programs for children and teens with disabilities, expanded accessibility services at the theater, a National Disability in Theatre Convening (2019) and most recently, the Forward Festival for the Arts, a multi-week, multi-disciplinary festival of artists and companies that center performers with disabilities.

Born in Brooklyn, Vincent D’Onofrio studied at the Actors Studio and the American Stanislavski Theatre. He is considered an “actor’s actor” and went on to achieve a wide variety of notable roles, first starting in Off-Broadway and Broadway productions. In 2012, D’Onofrio returned to teach at the Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute.

As a film actor, he appeared in a number of movies, most prominently in Full Metal Jacket, Dying Young, and Men in Black, in addition to Jurassic World, Mystic Pizza, The Player, Ed Wood, The Cell, The Break-Up, The Whole Wide World, and the Netflix series, Daredevil.

On television, he played the role of Detective Robert Goren in Law & Order: Criminal Intent for ten years, and he was nominated for an Emmy for a guest appearance in Homicide: Life on the Street: The Subway.

The new campaign will raise funds to support the next round of Theatre for All actor training which returns in-person at Queens Theatre as well as online this fall and ensures that it remains free for all participants. (Due to the pandemic, workshops and events were hosted virtually over the last two years).

Workshops and panels are led by Disabled and non-Disabled theatre/film industry professionals, and include auditioning, acting, improvisation, musical theatre, voice, and movement. The program is for individuals who identify as Disabled or Deaf and includes three training tracks for actors with varying levels of experience:  Beginner, Early-Career, and Working Actor. The program culminates with an industry showcase performance for the Early Career-level and Working Actor-level students. Students are selected through an application process.

The application process for the fall program will be announced later this summer. All information will be available online at www.queenstheatre.org.

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