Inspired by her son, Gail Dalrymple created Tilt Performance Group to empower adults with disabilities who love theater.
By Lindsey Logan, Photo courtesy of Tilt Performance Group
On the night of June 7, Gail Dalrymple stood in the box office with a smile on her face, greeting audience members and passing out tickets. Backstage, she checked all the last-minute details, from costume changes to stage transitions. Once the clock hit 7:30 p.m., it was showtime.
Dalrymple spent most of her adult life juggling a career as an accomplished litigation attorney while being a mother of four kids. However, after nearly 30 years, she began to feel burned out practicing law; she was ready for the next chapter of her life. After a stint in seminary, she found purpose and inspiration through her youngest son, Peter Richter, and created Tilt Performance Group.
Richter lives with disability and attended Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired growing up. Throughout his school years, he loved being part of the school’s theater department, where Dalrymple would volunteer. After all, Dalrymple had started her undergraduate career studying theater before she switched to communications. After Richter graduated school, Dalrymple quickly realized there was no longer a space in Austin where her son could carry out his passion for theater. A lightbulb went off in Dalrymple’s head when she had the idea to combine her passion for theater with her son’s desire to continue performing.
Tilt provides adults with disabilities a place to feel empowered in their love of theater through production and acting.
Dalrymple started Tilt in 2013 with three goals in mind: to provide an opportunity for adults with disabilities to use their talents and thrive while working in a theater company, to show the Austin community the true abilities of people with disabilities and to provide socialization for the actors and give them an environment where the cast and crew could feel like a family sharing their love and passion for theater with one another.
“I wanted [the actors] to have an opportunity to shine in their community and be connected in their community and also to let the community know them,” Dalrymple says.
The group started with seven members. The inspiration for the name came from the members’ tilted perspective of the world.
“It’s just our different way of looking at things, and we invite [the audience] to share that,” Dalrymple explains, noting many of the productions incorporate this tilted-perspective concept.
“I’m always trying to prove that no matter what, you can still do it, maybe a little different, but you can still do things able-bodied people do. … Instead of being seen for your talents, you’re always seen for your disability. I’m part of something where I feel like I can do it,” cast member Dayanara Garcia says.
Unlike many traditional performance groups, Tilt holds its performances at theaters fully accessible to its actors and audience members. From providing Braille scripts to paying for members’ cab rides to and from rehearsals, the group is dedicated to empowering its participants.
“One of the reasons I love being in Tilt is the diversity of people,” cast member Nano Boye Nagle says.
This summer’s production, Flip Side Redux, consisted of six mini plays sharing a common theme of the grass always seeming greener on the other side. The actors agree one of the greatest parts of being involved with Tilt is sharing their passion for theater with their community.
Cast member Kristen Gooch sums it up best. “Talent is talent,” she says. “Disability is not relevant.”