Onstage at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul is Harper Lee’s play, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The 50-year-old lesson about discrimination, equality and truth hasn’t changed. The story and themes are still fresh. The play was wonderful, but I have a bone to pick.
I heard a few quiet gasps when the “N-word” was first used. We should feel uncomfortable when any disenfranchised group is disparaged. But as I sat enjoying the fine-tuned actors re-telling me the story of a favorite book, I couldn’t help but wonder about if, and when, my civil rights and those of others with disabilities, would become reality. How long will it be before someone writes a story about equal rights for the disabled, in an attempt to cause change and shake our country, as did Mockingbird?
I was excited to see the changes at the newly renovated Park Square. The intimate lobby has a bar and conversation areas. But the restrooms are next door in the Hamm Building, either down an elevator to one set or down the hall to another. The main level women’s restroom, not easily accessible with a wheelchair, doesn’t have any automatic doors. There are sharp turns inside and a narrow path to a handicapped accessible stall.
Then, when an usher took our tickets at the right-hand theater door, she pulled our stubs and pointed through the door saying, “They’ll find your seats up there.”
Up the steep ramp to mid-level of the theater, another usher took our tickets, looked at me looked at my chair, looked at the steps that lead to the other side of the theater where our seats were, looked at my husband and said, “Are you here?!?”
Hubby patted himself and answered, “Well, yes, I think I’m here!”
Again she said, “Are you here?” (We think she wanted him to haul me up the steps.)
I took our tickets from her and we wove and waded through people coming up the ramp then maneuvered through (and kept out of the way of) the line of people giving their tickets to the usher (who apparently doesn’t read tickets). At the left-hand door, another usher told us, “They’ll find your seats up there.”
Up another steep ramp to another usher who said, “Is she staying in the chair?”
We gave her a blank look and pulled up to the empty spot awaiting.
The stadium-style theater offers 20 accessible seats, left and right of center. The walkway between the upper and bottom halves of the theater is a raised platform with steps on either side. Though they’ve added handrails, the steps are steep as you climb up or down to your seat. So much for accessibility.
I hope the next renovation creates accessible seats that are dead center to the stage and truly accessible bathrooms. It’s just a matter of doing the right thing and making way for every individual. As Atticus Finch said: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. … Until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it.”