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batec mobility batec handbikes

Montse (paraplegic, Barcelona) is the person behind telephone customer care at Batec Mobility. She also uses a wheelchair and one of our handbikes. But today we want to talk about one of her other facets, her more artistic side. Because Montse is passionate about theatre, a hobby she got into as a result of the accident that left her in a wheelchair and that she considers a therapeutic, liberating exercise.

When and how did you get started in theatre? Were you involved in theatre before the accident?

I started doing theatre five years ago. In fact, I had always really liked the entertainment world. Before the accident that caused my spinal injury, I worked in audiovisual production for advertising. I had also worked on a couple of feature films doing various tasks, one being coordinating the actors. But I had always been behind the cameras. As an actress, I had only done a bit of theatre at school and college.

Is it a hobby or a profession for you?

I wish it could be my profession! It’s a very difficult, competitive world. Being able to do it professionally often depends on a stroke of luck: being in the right place at the right time. However, for now it’s just a hobby. I don’t have time for more. If you want to do it right, it takes a lot of time and hard work.

How many days a week do you devote to it?

We normally rehearse once a week but when opening night is approaching, we have to buckle down and find another day or so to get together. That doesn’t mean we don’t put in time on our own the rest of the days: memorising lines, practicing new registers, vocal exercises… I personally devote a bit of time to it each day. My neighbours must think I’ve got a screw loose.

 

theatre in a wheelchair more than a hobby a passion

 

They say art is a good way to express feelings. How does is benefit you in this way?

Obviously, theatre is emotion and before going on stage you have to do the groundwork of understanding and interiorising the characters. This means putting yourself in their shoes and trying to feel what they feel. Like with writing, the more personal life experiences you’ve had, the easier it is to feel emotion, understand and identify with the characters. You have to understand and believe what you’re doing. That’s the only way to be believable and to reach the audience. In short, it’s all about exteriorising your own emotions through a fictional character, which is a very therapeutic, liberating exercise.

Has being disabled been an impediment to doing theatre?

In fact, I started doing theatre thanks to my wheelchair. I worked on a radio show for quite a few years called “Cataluña sin barreras” (Catalonia without barriers), which deals with topics related with disabilities. It was the group of regular contributors to the programme that came up with the idea to create a theatre group to give voice to the association we had created: Asociación de Capacidades Integradas (+x+). We started off doing social theatre and raising awareness; all of the actors had some sort of disability or chronic or mental illness, like Parkinson for example. The group has evolved from there and is now an inclusive theatre group with disabled and non-disabled people putting on all sorts of plays.

Do you have any favourites in the theatre world?

I don’t have any favourites in particular. I like many different actors and actresses, some of the ones from my neck of the woods include Vicky Peña, Lluís Omar, Ariadna Gil and many more.

 

theatre in a wheelchair more than a hobby a passion

 

What do you like most about acting?

The chance to put myself in the shoes of characters who are very different. And of course, public recognition, which is a great healer of self-esteem.

Do you have any funny anecdotes or moments you remember clearly for some reason?

At a play in Llagostera where, like most places, the spaces (dressing rooms, stage, theatre) aren’t accessible, I had to change in a toilet really far from the dressing rooms and the stage. When I finished getting dressed and putting on my make-up, I went to open the door only to find that I had been locked in and I didn’t have mobile service to call for help. I started yelling but I was so far from the rest that no one realised I was missing until five minutes before the show was supposed to start. And I was the lead!
I also remember going out and speaking with the audience after we put on LOU at Caixa Fòrum in Barcelona and several people were surprised that I was really in a wheelchair.

Do you have any new plays opening soon?

Yes, after summer we’re planning to kick off the play we’re rehearsing now, which is called Lobos de ficción. It’s set in the United States during the cold war and Senator McCarthy’s “witch hunt” (1950-1956). It’s an interesting spy story, in which no one is what they seem.

Would you recommend theatre to other people with disabilities?

Without a doubt, I recommend that everyone, with or without disabilities, do some sort of artistic activity. Just like we need to do some sort of physical activity at our own level to stay in shape, I think artistic expression, on whatever level, is also necessary for a healthy mind.

Thank you, Montse, for your time and interesting answers. And, of course, “break a leg”.

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