“All the world’s a stage …” a famous quote from William Shakespeare's As You Like It, truly describes the outlook of Toronto’s Sol Express. This creative arts group loves nothing more than to perform, and demonstrates that the stage can be shared, and enjoyed, by all.
Sol Express is made up of individuals with intellectual disabilities who work with program director Cheryl Zinyk, and with other professionals in the creative community, to develop skills in drama, dance, voice and art. Sol Express’ goal is to promote opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities and to allow them to share their gifts with others through creative expression.
“It’s with the belief that people with developmental disabilities have very interesting things to say and great perspectives on things,” explains Cheryl.
In early 2010, Sol Express put on an original production called In River’s Time. The group spent months preparing and practising, and it would seem to great end, as both performances of the show were sold out. According to Sol Express member Nicholas, the play got at the essence of individuality and acceptance.
“It’s a story about what makes us different and what makes us to be ourselves,” he explains. “And there’s a lot of messages in there that all of us reflect on here at Sol Express and what we’re about.”
Sol Express is run by L’Arche — a Toronto-based group with a mission to “reveal the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, through mutually transforming relationships.” The organization helps people find ways to fully participate in their communities and, through creative performances like In River’s Time, to show the world what people with intellectual disabilities are capable of.
The play was a huge hit in the community, as well as an important milestone for the group. The experience helped them to learn to work together, enhance their artistic skills and, of course, gain extra confidence through the affirmation that comes from a cheering crowd.
“We actually had an encore at the end,” says Nicholas. “That felt really, really good.”
While Cheryl says the benefits to Sol Express members are immense, the benefits of the community witnessing the group in action may be even more so. The audience was able to experience a heart-warming play with a truly talented cast, and take away an important universal message about the value that lies in our differences.
“I think if we can have that effect, that we can maybe invite people into an experience, then I think that’s wonderful,” says Cheryl. “And so people had an evening that made them think about life, about people around them, and were touched by the people who were on stage. And I think that’s good theatre.”