New Interview: Nancy Greenstein

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 Somebody said to me years ago, there was a reason why God gave you Robin. Of course at that time I couldn’t see it, because I didn’t worry about myself, I worried about her future. What would she have been like if she had been born normal? I think she would have been something special. But she is special, you know? Nancy Greenstein

Nancy Greenstein is a respected parent/advocate, and a founding member of PATH (People Acting to Help, Inc.) in Philadelphia. When her daughter Robin was born in 1957, it was obvious to Nancy that she had a disability. But it took 18 months for medical professionals to acknowledge that fact, and even longer for Nancy and her family to find much needed supports for Robin. Along the way, Nancy learned to speak out not only for her daughter, but for countless other families of children with disabilities. Though Nancy has left an incredible legacy, she would prefer to be remembered as a mother and grandmother.  Please enjoy this lively conversation with a remarkable woman!

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Institute on Disabilities at Temple University Awarded Exhibitions and Public Interpretation Grant from Pew Center for Arts & Heritage

The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University was awarded a $360,000 grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on June 16, 2014 for A Fierce Kind of Love: A Community Conversation in Performance, Image, Story and Dialogue.

In 2012, with support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, the Institute began the development of A Fierce Kind of Love (AFKOL), a play inspired by Pennsylvania’s Intellectual Disability Rights Movement. Written by Obie-nominated theatre artist Suli Holum and directed by Philadelphia director David Bradley, AFKOL is the centerpiece of a community history and civic dialogue project, offering multiple ways to interpret the rich history and prevailing issues of people with intellectual disabilities. The play will premiere in April of 2016; a yearlong series of coordinated community events will precede the play, and offer multiple points of entry into the history, themes, and interpretation at the heart of this project.

“With this additional support from the Pew Center for the Arts & Heritage, the Institute can continue to tell a heretofore untold civil rights story, says Celia Feinstein, Co-Executive Director of the Institute on Disabilities. “Reaching audiences through live performance and other events will help to advance the full inclusion of people with disabilities — a core objective of the Institute.

While drawing on conventional forms of public history and performance, AFKOL crosses the boundaries of both in its methods of gathering, shaping and presenting content. Informed by historical research and oral history interviews collected by the Institute’s Visionary Voices project, AFKOL features a nine-person ensemble of professional actors and aspiring actors with Intellectual Disabilities. In this way, AFKOL models the Institute’s value of inclusive practice by working with people with disabilities and families as first person sources and makers of creative content. Performances will be followed by Town Hall discussions facilitated by local artists and community stakeholders.

According to Producer Lisa Sonneborn, “A Fierce Kind of Love will engage people with disabilities (some for the first time) in the history of their Movement, and will introduce disability history to new audiences. By creating safe and inclusive spaces for conversation, we can begin to unravel complex and persistent issues facing the disability community. “

Supporting AFKOL will be a yearlong roster of dynamic community programming. Key components of that programming include:

Lives Lived Apart, a program which will invite volunteer “citizen recorders” to conduct interviews with people with intellectual disabilities who live and work in segregated settings;

– Sib Slam with First Person Arts, a series of storytelling workshops for sibling pairs, followed by a sibling themed night of story telling (Sib Slam);

Fierce Love, Activism and the Role of Parents, a colloquium led by a panel of nationally renowned disabilities studies scholars focused on activism, the role parents continue to play in shaping disability policy, and the fierce love required to raise a child with a disability; and

Stories in Play, an acting workshop that will explore the use of theater techniques, including music and movement, to bring personal and community stories to life.

Our project partners include Art-Reach, Animating Democracy, oral historian Nicki Pombier-Berger, and acclaimed photographer JJ Tizou.

David Bradley, director of A Fierce Kind of Love, is excited to be a part of this multifaceted project. “Making A Fierce Kind of Love is a tremendous opportunity not only to tell important, and largely untold stories of courage and activism, but also to build a vision for inclusivity through a cast of diverse abilities sharing these stories in a multiplicity of ways.”

Event dates, times and locations, as well as photographs and project updates can be found on the A Fierce Kind of Love website.

The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage (the Center), established in 2005, is dedicated to simulating a vibrant cultural community in the greater Philadelphia region. The Center makes project grants in two areas, Performance and Public Interpretation, as well as awarding grants to individual artists through its Pew Fellowships. The Center also makes Advancement grants, substantial awards to high performing organizations seeking to make lasting improvements to their programming, audience engagement, and financial health. Each year, Center funding makes possible numerous performing arts events, as well as history and visual arts exhibitions and other public programs for audiences in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties. The Center is also a hub for research and knowledge-sharing on issues critical to cultural practice.


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New Interview: Janet Evans



It already has started, they’re going back into nursing homes, going back into institutions and it’s very hard to get out. They will lose everything if they don’t come together and say what they want and show what they need. You need to tell [the] story, tell your personal story.  Janet Evans

Janet Evans describes herself as “the biggest advocate in Pittsburgh!”.  Janet found her voice at a young age, when she wanted choice within the segregated setting of the institution in which she lived, and when she wanted to further her education.  Janet insisted that she be allowed to live in the community, and built a rich life there with her husband Harry.  She continues to advocate for the right to live an everyday life, for herself and others with disabilities.

Listen to Janet’s interview at

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For Mother’s Day: Quotes from Visionary Moms

Warm, inspiring, and wise words from some of our favorite moms – enjoy!

When did I first feel like an advocate? I never thought about it, I mean I never even knew the word.
Eleanor Elkin

They were not accepted in the school system…these children did not fit the criteria. But we also learned that – well, I felt this way, and I think the others felt the same way — all these children were our children, they were my children, too.
Nancy Greenstein

When I think of pioneering, I think of all the hardships and difficulties they had and I can’t cast our life in that picture. I mean, sure there were, there were difficult times and challenges, plenty, but it wasn’t to me like what the pioneers did. Maybe the spirit of a pioneer.
Trinna Lossino

I do believe that you need those people who are willing to be the troublemakers, to keep shaking those cages, and so we’re not the status quo. You can’t be afraid when people confront you and tell you how awful you are because you stand up for what you believe in, and I think that still happens every day to people in the civil rights movement, you know, your troublemakers.
Dee Coccia

I’d like to pass on to families to work with everybody and get educated and learn this system. Know how to talk to people, know when to talk, when not to talk, and work closer with people, just care about other people, other than yourself. I think that’s what I would like to give to the parent. I would like to say, learn all you can, and you never know it all, and [there’s] always something that you can learn. You know?
Lizzie Richardson

Everyone was learning and everyone was pushing and trying to get a foothold in getting ahead and getting some good things passed for these children so that they wouldn’t be just lost in the shuffle and put in an institution and forgotten.
Charlotte Twaddell

The whole environment said low expectations. These children, we do not expect much from them, and we’re not going to give them very much. I stormed up the stairs and stormed into the principal’s office, and announced that I was probably going to be one of his new parents, and that I found that classroom totally inaccessible…and he said words that are burned in my heart.

He said, they don’t care. They don’t care.

And it was — that was the beginning — one of the beginnings of my transformation from being a concerned mother to being an activist.
Ginny Thornburgh

There are so many needs out there… I don’t know that what I’ve done is so important but it was a start, you know? And that’s what you have to think about. You have to think about starting it, but start it well so it stays.
Pat Whalen

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New Interview: Earl Duff



Most of the deaf people that are classified as mentally retarded never had manual communication…They didn’t have that freedom to think in an expressive language and be able to express their thoughts. Earl Duff

For over forty years, Earl Duff has worked on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities. With his colleagues Sam Scott and Carol Meshon, Earl founded M5, a provider agency with expertise in serving people with ID who are also deaf. The “Three Musketeers” believed that, by offering their clients the opportunity to learn language (English or American Sign Language), they would find employment, and integrate more fully into the communities of their choice.

Listen to Earl’s story at

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Remembering Trina Losinno

On April 2nd, the disability community lost an advocate and friend, Trina Losinno.  Trina courageously fought an eight-month battle against cancer.  During this time she lived each day with grace and dignity as she did each and every day of her life.  

The Institute was privileged to interview Trina and her husband David, about their life and work in 2012.  That interview will be posted in the coming weeks.  For now, we would like to share some words of reflection and inspiration from Trina’s interview:

I think this is a very tough time. When we go back and talk to some people at our agency, they’re struggling. And that’s unfortunate and I’m sure there are many, many, many families who are very, very concerned and worried that the future of support and services is not going to go in the positive direction they would hope. This is a trying and difficult time, but possibly from it will grow a different type of service. A different level of support. Who knows whatever might be possible, might happen?
Trina Lossino


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Developing A Fierce Kind of Love

Development of our play, A Fierce Kind of Love, continues through the Spring. On March 10 and 11, our cast and creative team came together for two days of storytelling and creative play.
Photos by Sergei Blair.


Photos (top to bottom): Playwright Suli Holum and Actor Michael McClendon; Actors Marcia Saunders and Erin McNulty; Director David Bradley and Actor Lee Ann Etzold; and Marcia Saunders.

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