My name is Carly Neis. I am a theatre artist, creator, emerging playwright, and producer. I also happen to be disabled. I have Cerebral Palsy and use a wheelchair and service dog to meet my access needs. I am currently living and working in Edmonton.
I started my journey as an actor at the age of 8 in Ontario. Back then it was easier for me to get roles because I was just a kid therefore my disability was easy to hide. As I got older, the realisation that I was different became clear; the gap between me and my peers was almost too obvious. I would audition alongside my peers for parts I knew were within my ability and still could not land a role. The industry discouraged me to the point where I stopped pursuing acting as both a career and a hobby.
Fast forward 15 years, I had moved to Edmonton and realized that I couldn’t cut the arts out of my life entirely. So, I found a local community company that saw me as an equal - they were both a training and performance-based organization.
I decided the only way I was going to build a name for myself in this industry was to fight the inaccessibility of art with art! Four years ago I began the adventure of playwriting that spoke my truth and opening doors not only for me, but those with disabilities who come after me.
Tune to A is a play for young audiences about seeing past others’ limitations to illuminate their potential. Through the process of writing this show I discovered that traditional rehearsal processes don’t support me working to my full potential. So I curated my own practice with support from my allies and co-creators.
When I am not working on a project for the stage, I am further developing the consultancy aspect of my work. In the past 3 years I have worked in this capacity to create better access to arts spaces for audiences and performers alike. I’ve consulted companies such as Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre regarding physical spaces such as dressing rooms and bathrooms as well as spoken on many panels on subjects such as breaking down institutional barriers in theatre or bridging the gap between disabilities and theatre. I find the best way to break down barriers and misconceptions is by bringing my real life experience into frank conversations that encourage theatremakers to commit to calls to action. If there are no calls to action, nothing will move forward.
As much as I love to be the facilitator to others, I also love that there are always ways to better my craft and learn new skills. I am currently enrolled in Azimuth Theatre’s Mentorship and Apprenticeship Program (AZ-MAP) where I am strengthening my artistic skills, producing practice, as well as networking with mentors and future collaborators. So far I have taken curated classes in voice, musical theatre storytelling, playwriting, scene study. I am looking forward to what other skills I can craft on the next part of my journey!
What’s on my dream to-do list: Acting wise - I’d love to be cast as Miss Stacey in Anne of Green Gables! It is a role I’ve loved since I first saw the show as a kid! I’d love to play this strong, independent character! I’d love to be able to portray this role at the Charlottetown Festival! Next, I want to create and produce my own solo show that will celebrate my love for musical theatre, but stretch my skills into solo creation and producing. I also strive to expand my consulting and advocacy. Recognizing there is a desire to see all bodies on stage, there is still a noticeable lack of examples to draw from. The goal is to provide a more consistent and realistic example of what is possible if minds are open and resources can be made available. A mentor and friend of mine once told me to “stop letting people tell you can’t and just do it” This is me, acknowledging and honouring where I've been, where I am, and my wildest dreams.