Arts & Events

New: Neil Marcus: Fantastic Spastic

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 09:44:00 PM

I have a dear friend and neighbor, Neil Marcus, a playwright, poet and actor, who describes himself as a "fantastic spastic, creatively endowed with disability." As a perfectly healthy eight-year old growing up in Ojai, he was stricken with dystonia, a rare neurological disorder in which powerful involuntary muscle spasms twist and jerk the body into unusual postures. Neil is affected with "generalized dystonia", the most severe and painful form of this disorder. It denies his ability to speak, stand and walk and/or control sudden and sometimes bizarre movements. 

But this hasn't stopped him. Far from it. The author of a play, "Storm Reading", Neil's writings have been published in newsletters, newspapers and magazines. He's been a recipient of the United Nations Award for Excellence in playwriting, with this play performed at Santa Barbara's Access Theatre, as well as at Stanford, in Washington and New York. The actor Michael Douglas took keen interest in Neil and arranged for a production of his play in Hollywood. He also appeared in a television production of "ER", a drama which paralleled his own disorder. Maria Shriver came to his home to interview him for a segment of her television program. 

After a five week Los Angeles run at the Tiffany Theatre, "Storm Reading" was hailed by members of the L.A. Drama Critics Circle, voted one of Los Angeles' top ten plays of 1993 by the L.A. Village View and the Drama-Lounge Magazine's Award for Best Production, Best Ensemble and Best Direction. 

In discussing his disability, Neil states " It is the experience of being different. People are curious about us. They wonder where we come from, where we've been and where we're going." Well, they needn't worry. Neil gets around just fine (i.e., going to Berlin for a Disability Conference.) 

This past Wednesday evening, our resident playwright showed a movie he had produced to an audience in the Berkeley Town House Lounge. His partner, Petra Kruppers, a Disability Culture Activist and an Associate Professor of English Theatre and Dance at Bryant University in Rhode Island, also appeared in the film. 

Neil's next performance will be at the San Francisco Institute of Art on December 2nd. 

A long time resident of the Berkeley Town House and a well known figure in Berkeley, Neil gets around in his motorized wheelchair, greeting friends with a raised thumb and always with that sly, devilish smile on his face. So, never, ever feel sorry for this remarkable guy. He doesn't ask for your sympathy -- just your admiration!