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“I definitely don’t want to touch your face.” Local woman dispels myths regarding blindness in local play

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Credit: Waterloo Community Playhouse
FACT SHEET
An insert that Hansen wrote to be added into the show's playbill

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- Watching her perform on stage, you would probably guess that Kelsi Hansen's character is blind. She feels around walking up the stairs, guiding her way by touch until she reaches a landing.

You would be right because Hansen's character is blind. Starring in the Waterloo Community Playhouse rendition of “Wait Until Dark”, a 1960's play made famous in film by Audrey Hepburn, Hansen plays the main character of Susan.

“I actually think this play is very accurate for Susan, cause she's only been blind a year and a half,” Hansen said.

In the show, Susan is adjusting to life as a blind woman before things get complicated when 3 murderous con-men enter the picture.

Greg Holt has directed a number of plays but never one quite like this.

“You don't have to worry about the audience going 'is this actor doing a great job being blind?' Because she brings that authenticity to it already,” Holt said.

Hansen isn't acting when she's blind.

At the age of 12, she lost her sight after being diagnosed with cancer. A secondary brain tumor pressed on her optic nerve almost completely blinding her. Hansen says she can slightly perceive some light.

"There's a lot of misconceptions surrounding blindness, surrounding disabilities in general,” Hansen said.

One of the misconceptions includes how a blind person recognizes someone.

"I don't know a blind person who wants to touch your face. I definitely don't want to touch your face,” Hansen said, laughing about the thought.

Hansen wrote a special insert for the show's playbill as a way to dispel some myths.

“There's a lot of things you don't think about with a sighted actor like they know where the edge of the stage is,” Holt said.

The stage floor is riddled with several modifications to allow Hansen to know where she is through the tactile touch of her feet. Things like carpet runners run along the front of the stage, tiles let her know she's in the kitchen area of the set, and a rubber lip lets her know where a ledge is.

Despite these accommodations, Hansen says she's not fragile.

"People think I'm made of glass. Like 'oh, don't run into that.' And if i do, it's probably my fault honestly,” Hansen said. She also noted that there are several parts of the show that show that she's not fragile.

She says her favorite part of the show is the end when Susan uses her blindness offensively by simply waiting til dark.

The director says working with Hansen has allowed the cast to be very precise in their actions and taught them how to be more empathetic. Hansen said she looks forward to doing more shows in the area but plans to take a break to spend some time with her son.

The show opens Friday, January 24th, and runs until February 2nd at the Waterloo Community Playhouse. Tickets can be purchased on the website or by calling the box office at 319-291-4494.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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