Blind Theater Troupe Changes Perceptions

A group of Southern Californians don't let their disability hold them back.

"It's a theatre troup where all the performers are blind. It not only didn't hold them back; it's serving as inspiration to others; and raising money for worthy cause," Dr. Bruce Hensel said.

They can't see, but they can act.

Twice a week, six blind actors travel for hours by bus, by access rideshare, to get to rehearsal for the CRE Theater Outreach Program.

"It's like an escape for me. I could be someone different than who I really am," actor Ernest Pipoly said.

Pipoly had a stuttering problem.

Bert Grose was blinded by gun shots and lost much of his memory.

Ernie Alvarez had not spoken a word for months.

Director Greg Shane says there are challenges -- but they work around it.

"It's pretty amazing. They actually learn their lines through tape recording. They'll tape-record the lines, play them back and that's how they learned their lines,"  Shane said. "There's no one pulling them on and off stage, it's the other actors giving them sound cues ... It's really about them learning to trust each other."

Together they wrote a play, called Hiding Eyes, a mafia thriller.   After months of rehearsal, a transformation started to take place.

Ernest no longer stuttered; Bert started remembering more things; And Ernie broke his silence.

"When I started, I couldn't speak one word for 15 minutes. It was hard sweat, but now I'm speaking," Alvarez said.

And on opening night at the Edgemar Theater in Santa Monica, a sold-out crowd showed up. .

"Show night is crazy night. The response that we've gotten is resounding. It's just incredible," Shane said.

At the end, a standing ovation -- and newfound purpose.

"A blind person can do anything he or she sets his mind to do," Pipoly said.

And at least one cast member, Ernie Alvarez, is ready for his closeup:  "Hollywood, and let action begin!"  

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