A powerful song exploring invisible disabilities and a yearning to become invincible was recently released to raise funds and awareness for accessibility and inclusion in the arts.
Artist Sarah Luby released her debut song Invisible on May 24, co-written and produced with local musician Duncan Cox.
"I want to bring attention to disabilities that are hiding in plain site amongst the artistic community. It might be a mental health issue, it might be ADHD or Crohn’s," said the Whyte Ridge resident. "In my case, it’s Type 1 diabetes that I was diagnosed with when I was 11, and undifferentiated connective tissue disease diagnosed at age 17."
She took part in the inaugural Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s National Mentorship program, which inspired her to expand her commitment to increase disabled representation on stage and screen, and ‘come out’ to the world as someone with a disability.
"For the longest time, it was difficult for me to admit that I had a disability. Like so many, I was scared of the repercussions the stigma could have on my career. Ultimately, with much care and support, I decided that the possibility of creating change and helping others was more important," Luby said.
Her mentor in the program was disability advocate David Connolly, associate artistic director of Drayton Entertainment, and only amputee to ever perform on Broadway.
"He told me to work with my strengths. My strength is my voice and my acting," she said. "I knew Duncan Cox from other performances on Rainbow Stage and the WSO, so I contacted him in late January and asked if he would work on the song with me."
Luby drafted lyrics and sent them to Cox, who wrote the music, with a lot of back-and-forth over Zoom. They eventually were able to set up a socially distanced meeting to finish the song. "We got into so many conversations and details about my life that don’t come up in normal conversation."
In May, she worked with videographer Tee-Jay Furgala and American Sign Language interpreter Katarina Ziervogel on a music video for the single.
"I knew I wanted much of the video to be in black and white, to reflect how part of me is invisible to others most of the time, and then move into colour when I was performing on the stage," she said, adding the video was shot in the Exchange District and the MTC Warehouse. "When I’m on stage, I do find a sense of peace."
Reaction to the single has been positive, with many comments focused on her line about "taking one day off" from her disabilities.
"Diabetes makes life so complicated. If my body is a canvas, then it’s all poked up," she said, adding the video produced for the song shows her doing a finger prick and injecting insulin into a spot on her hip. "I often am in a lot of pain from the tissue disease, as well."
In April, Luby became a Canadian ambassador to the Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA), which is a nonprofit, global organization that offers encouragement, education and connection with a goal to create a "world where people living with illness, pain and disability will be invisible no more."
"Being an ambassador allows me to speak about invisible disabilities, especially for children, to let them know it’s okay to identify this way," she said. "People shouldn’t discriminate against a person with a disability, visible or not, during an audition, for example."
Invisible is available online at www.sarahvluby.com, which includes a link to make donations to the IDA.