Community, Cottage Grove

One last show before Creative Chaos goes on hiatus in the Grove

COTTAGE GROVE – Disabled people haven’t always had the opportunity to be in the limelight, but Creative Chaos’ plays allow for just that.

This weekend, 11 disabled actors will be taking the stage, for what may be their last time, at Opal Center for Arts & Education at 513 E. Main St. for Creative Chaos’ “Black Box Production.”


Director Carmen Dowell, 50, began the program at Opal Center eight years ago after a run-in with an ableist director.

“I helped Monica (Venice) prepare for an audition at another theater. They pulled me outside, the director did, and said I needed to leave with her, and how dare I bring her to an audition,” Dowell said. “The audition was for a disabled person, and all they do is say ‘Yes’ one time and sit on a bench.”

A friend suggested Dowell reach out to the Opal Center with her idea to create a play entirely casted by disabled actors, and the Opal Center was happy to help make that dream a reality.

“It’s been a lot of fun through the years seeing all the things we can do,” Dowell said.

When Venice, 58, was asked what she enjoys about Creative Chaos, her nearly 40-year friendship with Dowell was her primary answer, and when Natasha Cosper, 23, was asked the same question, she said, “because I like hanging out with you,” while looking at Dowell.

The actors described Creative Chaos as a safe space where they are free to be themselves and make friends. Loren Goodman, 55, said there is a great “camaraderie” with everyone, and this is a reason why Mystic Debary, 22, chose to make her stage debut this year.

“It’s actually a lot of fun knowing I can try something new without being afraid (of being perfect) because I know I’m not,” Debary said.

Actors have disabilities which range from autism to down syndrome to fetal alcohol syndrome and more, Dowell said, and nobody has to audition to be in the show. If they meet the requirements to compete in the Special Olympics, which Dowell and her husband have been coaching for nearly two decades, then they can join Creative Chaos.

Dowell said she is taking an intermission from Creative Chaos because the actors become less able to practice and perform as they get older. Dowell also needs a break to visit her son, who is in the military, for a couple months.

When She returns to Cottage Grove this summer, she will still host a summer camp, though, where she will take her disabled friends to the pool and play games with them. Dowell is also working on partnering with another venue in town to bring the summer camp back to the stage.

Creative Chaos is always taking donations to help keep the program alive. Dowell said she occasionally gets scholarships or sponsors for the shows, but it’s often her husband and her footing the bill “because we want to do it for our friends.”

“Black Box Production” is a play unlike anything Creative Chaos has done before because there aren’t any elaborate sets or costumes, and according to Dowell, the show’s theme is “expressing fun songs that hopefully help bring people back to their childhood.”

The show goes on May 3 at 7 p.m. and May 4 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at or in person at The Crafty Mercantile for $15.



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