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Jeff Can’t Go

My mom called.

“Sarah, Jeff can’t go.”

Everything is still.

Jeff can’t go.

Jeff can’t go.

In 2003, I started an annual cabaret in a small college classroom. In my mind, really, then my mouth, then my body, then the air, then an email, then a small group of friends, then a classroom. I went to school to study musical theatre performance, and I was a brassy 18 year old who wanted to find an additional outlet for my friends and me to sing.

I also wanted to find a way to raise funds for something so personally paramount. My brother, Jeff, is a quadriplegic. A dive that came from his body, to the water, to the bottom of a pool, to the top of a shattered vertebrae and insta-broken family, 15 years ago. Jeff was 17 at the time, and in a very clean dive went from a healthy, athletic snowboarder to a C1-C2 quadriplegic.

Jeff can’t go.

Ten years ago I started a small college cabaret, then a less small cabaret, then a nice sized cabaret, then a sold out cabaret, rallying students to sing while raising funds for paralysis causes. Post graduation, I became a sassy adult who wanted to find an additional outlet in professional theatre for my modest musical revue.

I found it.

Two years off Broadway. One year on Broadway. And this year, at a fabulous Broadway cabaret, 54 Below. In less than three weeks, for the fourth year in a row, ten years after its start, Tony nominees, emerging talent, and worlds of musical theatre and TV will gather, sass, sing. All proceeds go to spinal cord injury fueled organizations.

Jeff can’t go.

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. Congress has recognized the need to highlight the many barriers and restrictions facing the nearly 5.6 million Americans living with a form of paralysis. The fourth annual celebrity cabaret Born for Broadway will be held on the very last day of September, this year. The very last day of Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

Jeff can’t go.

The reality of paralysis? Sometimes wheelchairs break. Tears fall, breaths feel like dives feel like endless plunges into pools, and every second that passes since my mom called with the news feels insurmountable.

I produce this event because of Jeff.

Jeff can’t go.

I’m casting right now, assembling yet another group of incredibly talented performers at the very top of their field. Every Broadway performer coming to a stage in Times Square on the one night they have off from an eight-show week. Because they believe in what we do- that with enough heart, and sass, and soul (and Visa), a group of people can come together and create change.

Wheelchairs break. And what is so easy for so many other people, a simple thought, a drive to Manhattan, a respite from the mundane for a night on the town, is so different for someone like my brother. When wheelchairs fail, and mounting barriers refuse to fall. When hope can’t fix this alone- a repair assessment is necessary, and will come well after the curtain falls.

Jeff can’t go. But he will be there. He will be among the faces that believe so strongly in our cause. We will raise necessary funds for the non-profits we support, grassroots organizations like Unite 2 Fight Paralysis, created and managed by individuals with spinal cord injuries.

We will hold Born for Broadway 2013, and we will believe in more to come. We will sell out (Visa?), we will take pictures and video, and we will spread the word.

Our voices will continue to cry out for more awareness, more funds. The power of theatre will continue to ignite the next generation of philanthropists. The benefit of song. At the end of the night, there will be a tomorrow. And we are entirely responsible for what it will bring.

We will recognize how special it is to produce Born for Broadway during a month with a national spotlight so rightly placed on families like mine. We will remember what is most important.

And Jeff can’t go. He can’t go.

Jeff can’t go.

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