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Windsor theatre performer hopes locally-shot original comedy series changes perception of people with disabilities

Michael Potter, actor, co-creator, and executive producer for (up)Staged, seen on May 4, 2024. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor) Michael Potter, actor, co-creator, and executive producer for (up)Staged, seen on May 4, 2024. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)

In the few years since he became completely blind and lost both of his legs in back-to-back amputations, Michael Potter says he is used to people treating him differently — almost to the point of insulting.

But through the creation of a new comedy series set to be filmed in Windsor, Potter hopes to redefine narratives surrounding people with disabilities by challenging societal norms and fostering a more inclusive entertainment industry.

Potter is an actor, co-creator, and executive producer for (up)Staged.

The eight-episode original comedy series is centred around a small independent theatre company which operates a small black box venue, exploring the experiences, challenges, quirks, and relationships of local artists.

up(Staged) is based off of Windsor-based Post Productions and the Shadowbox Theatre located near the corner of Howard Avenue and Shepherd Street East.

According to Potter, the series aims to challenge public perceptions of people with disabilities by featuring a diverse cast which showcases their talents and capabilities.

(Up)Staged is a locally created and produced eight-episode original comedy series. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor) "We want to show the reality. A lot of disabled people work and can do a lot of things. It's just that people don't notice because we're invisible and the culture has conditioned us to see disabled people as objects of pity or objects of inspiration," said Potter. "Both of those extremes are dehumanizing and insulting."

After one of his legs was amputated in 2010, Potter was diagnosed with end-stage proliferative retinopathy in 2018. His vision was completely gone by May 2022, he said.

During the pandemic, Potter's other leg was amputated after what he described as a "freak series of occurrences."

But, despite these obstacles, Potter has remained active in Windsor's arts and theatre scene.

"I'm the managing director of our theatre company. I direct plays. I produce plays. I act in plays I write — and I'm also multiply-disabled," said Potter.

Fay Lynn, who also serves as an actor, co-creator, and executive producer for (up)Staged, said initial scripts started being written in 2021.

Fay Lynn, actor, co-creator, and executive producer for (up)Staged, seen on May 4, 2024. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)She credits the pandemic for sparking the series' inception, as a small group of performers continued staging theatre shows in Windsor while adhering to COVID-19 health guidelines.

"It brought us closer together in a lot of ways. The few people in our theatre bubble that we were working with started telling stories about their theatre days and backstage experiences. So we thought, 'This could be a series. I'd watch that.' So let's just make it happen," said Lynn. "Since then, we've employed just over 50 local artists, including actors, cinematographers, and graphic artists. We're paying people for their work. That's a big move for us because we're trying to really treat this like an industry."

up(Staged) will be shot like a "mockumentary" — a style of filmmaking which depicts fictional events but is shot similarly to a documentary.

"The comedy and the pace is very quick," said Lynn, adding they would like to extend up(Staged) being just one season. "It will be shot mostly at the Shadowbox Theatre...but in this first season, we also go to several local businesses and parks. We're hoping to shoot a lot of the city so that we can really showcase Windsor."

The big obstacle for the production crew is securing the financial capital necessary to bring the series to life.

A Kickstarter campaign is expected to be launched May 10.

"We're asking for quite a bit but we're asking for what we need," said Lynn, adding a plan is in place to get (up)Staged in front of viewers' eyes.

"We have a two-part plan. The first is to release it online and sell it independently for download. It'll be eight episodes for 25 dollars. Eventually, the plan is to pitch it to one of the major streaming platforms."

As for Potter, he has one wish for anyone who watches an episode, beyond simply "having a good laugh and enjoying themselves."

"We hope what people take away from watching (up)Staged is that there is a lot of variety in humanity. We're focusing on artists — and artists are a strange group of people," said Potter. "We meet a lot of interesting people because the arts is a lot more welcoming than most other spaces."

He continued, "So I hope people feel a greater sense of connection to a broader and more diverse range of human beings after they see (up)Staged." Top Stories

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