Conscious party: Magic, Mirth & Meaning

THE POWER OF PERFORMANCE: The Vanishing Wheelchair encourages children and adults with disabilities to "find their passion in life through the arts" and creates performance opportunities for those that do, according to co-founder T.J. Shimeld. He uses linking rings during his routine "to demonstrate how we are all connected, as the solid rings magically link and unlink until I hold a string of six rings." Photo courtesy of The Vanishing Wheelchair

WHAT: A variety show benefiting The Vanishing Wheelchair

WHERE: The Vanishing Wheelchair Little Theatre

WHEN: Fridays, July 22, and Aug. 12 and 26, at 7 p.m.

WHY: In fall 2015, The Vanishing Wheelchair began moving into its new location on Weaverville Highway — a cozy meeting and performance space of about 600 square feet. Since then, the interior has seen gradual upgrades and a stream of new guests, some of whom come for a family-friendly, bi-monthly variety show: Magic, Mirth & Meaning.

“It does act as a fundraiser for The Vanishing Wheelchair,” co-founder T.J. Shimeld says, “but the main purpose is to give an opportunity for people with disabilities to display their talents.”

Storytellers, magicians, jugglers, singers and more take the stage — from amateurs to professionals and pre-teens to adults. Some of these Vanishing Wheelchair members also attend the nonprofit’s free skill-building workshops to refine their talents. And periodic performances in the purposefully limited-capacity room are “a way they can hone their skills before we would do a larger fundraiser show,” Shimeld explains.

A magician himself, Shimeld says his nonprofit was founded on the principle of misdirection. More specifically, he encourages people to focus on one another’s abilities rather than the opposite. Frequent performer Kelti Buchholz exemplifies this.

“She has multiple different disabilities, but when she sings, it’s like all that drops away,” he says, and after each set, she’s determinedly preparing for the next. Another member launched wheelchair dancing classes at Dimensions Studio in Mars Hill, though that group requires a larger stage than the Little Theater has.

“Every show is different,” Shimeld continues. “It’s meaningful for our performers, but it’s also a very inspirational moment for the audience.”

Admission to Magic, Mirth & Meaning is by donation, and the majority of proceeds go back into the space, including keeping programming free for members and guests. Visit vanishingwheelchair.org for more information.

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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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