Interview conducted by Marcie Bramucci and Leigh Jackson.
Nate Conley is a 25 year-old man with a passion for the theater. Having participated for many years in amateur theater programs has emboldened him to face his struggles through his passion. Nate is an athletic, talented, trustworthy person who loves his family deeply. He is currently a student in Temple University's Leadership & Career Studies program where he continues to develop skills for a life of self-reliance and independence. Nate is a busy guy. He is on a baseball team, basketball team, does weekly personal training sessions by zoom and, prior to the pandemic, had volunteered to prepare meals for the elderly and sick, ushered at People's Light Theater, Upper Darby Performing Arts theater and was an active member of a theater group. His diagnosis of autism is of no consequence to him when it comes to pursuing is dreams of being a professional performer.
He loves life and loves to be loved and accepted. A simple "Hello" from a peer when they walk by will make his day.
Marcie Bramucci is an artist and arts producer, with experience in theatre, film and television. As the Director of Community Investment at People's Light, she seeks out opportunities and resources for increased access, engagement and connection within and across community. On behalf of People's Light, she is the proud recipient of Art-Reach's 2015 Cultural Access Award for the theatre's relaxed performance initiative and inclusive practices. She leads a cohort of area theatres who collaborate toward increased arts access and inclusion. Marcie has advanced degrees in Theatre Arts (Villanova) and Arts Administration (Columbia) and lives in Malvern with her husband and three little ones.
Leigh Jackson was born and raised in Washington, DC. She has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor and, now, as the Director of Patron Experience at People's Light, a Malvern-based theatre, where she works to make sure all patrons feel welcome. She particularly enjoys making theatre spaces as accessible as possible.
MARCIE: Nate and Priscilla, I am eager to hear from you about what a typical day looks like for you today.
PRISCILLA: OK, Nate. So, what do you do during the day when you wake up and all that? [There are] no right or wrong answers.
NATE: The TV and computer.
PRISCILLA: He's pretty much on his TV and computer all day. But then you do other stuff twice a week on Wednesdays [and] Saturdays.
NATE: We work out.
PRISCILLA: Online he met two young ladies that do Zoom workouts. They're actually in California. And they're wonderful. At first, I thought it was a scam. But turns out they're really great young ladies and he does a pretty rigorous workout. Tell her what you do, Nate.
NATE: Work out as a wonder warrior. And I like-- I just felt like I made friends in the group chat.
PRISCILLA: How do you feel afterwards?
NATE: Like I feel energized.
MARCIE: That's great.
PRISCILLA: So that's only twice a week. Other than that, unfortunately, it's the computer and TV and on the weekend, he does a baseball-- he's on two different teams. He does-- they just started that Saturday and Sunday. But other than that, just unfortunately your computer and TV.
MARCIE: And Priscilla, you said you're working? What do you do?
PRISCILLA: Yeah, I work part time. I'm a paralegal. And so, I do that three days a week. So, I mean, Nate does self-care and he takes care of the dog while I'm gone, but other than that, nothing much. I've been trying to put something together for him, but it's difficult to find activities.
MARCIE: And what's different about now compared to before quarantines began, before we needed to be locked down in our houses. What would a day look like for you previously, Nate or Priscilla?
PRISCILLA: [To Nate] I'll tell my day then you tell yours. My day-- I would get up in the morning, pull Nate out of bed depending on what time his classes started, and pretty much prepare for work. Or on the days I'm off, do things around the house. And a lot of times to be honest, I spent a lot of time just trying to prepare or look for programs for him, and it is a full-time job.
I also am on the kidney transplant list. So, doctor's appointments are scheduled on the day. So, I'm pretty-- I was pretty busy and I will continue to be pretty busy, but now I have enough time to really take care of me too as well. Which is hard for me. Because -and I'm sure you get this from a lot of parents with kids with disabilities - once you find out [your child has a disability], your life becomes that. And now that [Nate's] older, he's not guaranteed services and there are limited services. So, it's kind of-- it's hard and it's scary. When they say falling off the cliff, you literally fall off the cliff.
I'm planning for him to complete his [Leadership and Career Studies program at Temple University] at some point and that's scary because what's next, you know what I mean?
[To Nate] So, tell [Marcie] what your day was like when you were going to school.
NATE: You almost told her everything about that. Like you almost captured my mornings and my morning story. And obviously, vans always get me late.
PRISCILLA: All right, but something happens. I'm not at school with you all day, so what happened at school? What did you do with school?
NATE: I made one of my friends. And we hang around sometimes. And, obviously, I love playing pool with them and air hockey.
MARCIE: Is that something you do at school? Do you play pool and air hockey at Temple?
MARCIE: Is that before or after class?
NATE: Before class.
MARCIE: Before class, so then you get to hang out with your friends in the lobby and play air hockey and then go to class?
NATE: [Leadership & Career Studies student] coaches hang with me too.
MARCIE: And what kind of classes? What are you studying?
NATE: I major for theater and sports.
People's Light, one of the largest professional theatres in Pennsylvania, forges cultural and civic connections throughout our rapidly growing region. In the landscape of American regional theatres, we count ourselves among the few located outside of a metropolitan area. Our home in the heart of Chester County places us at a unique crossroads of rural, urban, and suburban populations. Throughout our year-round season, we produce contemporary plays, classics, new forms of music theatre, and original work. Beyond the stage, we host a wide array of cultural experiences and education programs that inspire meaningful engagement with, and sustained investment in and from, our surrounding communities.
The seven-acre campus at People's Light features a restored, 18th-century farmhouse, two black box performance spaces, scenic shops, classrooms, rehearsal space, picnic areas, and our administrative offices. We also serve as a local polling place. The farmhouse is home to our for-profit business: a premier event venue, The Farmhouse at People's Light, and an on-site restaurant, The Farmhouse Bistro. 82,000 people visit our campus each year. Nowhere else in the region can patrons see exceptional theatre, attend a town-hall discussion, have dinner with friends, take a class, celebrate a wedding, and cast a vote, all in one place.
Our ties are local, our reach is national. We surround our productions with activities that connect us with our neighbors, weaving the onstage work into the fabric of community life. We lead the nation in accessible theatre practices, and strive to create programs and performances that can be enjoyed by everyone. As part of a longstanding history of new work development, People's Light commissions and produces world premiere plays, many of which go on to additional productions across the country. We established a nationally recognized model for locally inspired plays that aim to awaken a greater collective consciousness of our American experience.
This project was made possible with generous support from the Independence Public Media Foundation.
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