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"Telethon!" 2016: Jessy Yates

Equity in the Arts

Welcome to the final post of "Telethon!", a virtual, theatrical event that has taken place on The Lark's blog, produced by The Apothetae and The Lark to raise awareness and support for The Apothetae and Lark Initiative and 
Playwriting Fellowship. Each week, The Apothetae and The Lark have published new videos created by members of the community, inspired by The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, an event that has faced criticism not only for using Disabled people as a fundraising tool, but also for focusing the public's attention on medical cures to "normalize" people with disabilities. The Apothetae and The Lark see this as an opportunity for Disabled artists to begin to reclaim agency and ownership around their stories, images, and bodies.

Take us home, Jessy!

Cerebral Pussy

Video contains nudity.

Video Direction and Content Management: Kristjan Thor
Special Thanks to Stone Street Studios

Many Disability advocates were critical of Lewis' and the MDA's tendency to paint people with disabilities as, "pitiable victims who want and need nothing more than a big charity to take care of or cure them."

A performer who challenges the above perception in her work with humor, bite, and artistry is Jessy Yates, an actor and performance artist with Cerebral Palsy, from Cleveland and New York City. She is a recent graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied acting and directing at Playwrights Horizons Theater School. When she is not creating original devised theater, she is doing Disability activism and performing Burlesque. She has performed at such venues as Brooklyn Academy of Music (Mat Fraser’s Cripfest), Dixon Place Bingo Lounge (Baby’s First Dick Pic; Weirdo; Bitcrusher), The Public Theater (chamber production of The Penalty with The Apothetae), The Silent Barn, Coney Island’s Burlesque at the Beach, and The Robert Moss Theater (Blessing; Jodie, Greasy; Chicky, Rx).
You can follow her tomfoolery at

The song Jerry Lewis perennially sang to conclude the event, "You'll Never Walk Alone," was originally written for the 1945 Broadway musical play, Carousel by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Lewis has given conflicting accounts on the air as to the origin of his use of the song. According to his account at the end of the 2007 telethon, the song was suggested to him in 1964 by a disabled child, walking with a cane. It was suggested to Jerry as a song that would specifically represent physically disabled children.

As we conclude this iteration of “Telethon!” it seems fitting to end with this performance by Jessy, that I think so brilliantly embodies the original intention of “Telethon!” We hope you enjoy it. Thanks for watching!

Stay tuned. We’re just getting started…

Thank you for tuning in to "Telethon!" 2016 on The Lark's blog!

The Apothetae and The Lark are eager to launch this new Initiative, and are ready to do so as soon as we have the funds in place! We are currently seeking major supporters to help us make our plans possible. If you are interested in helping us please contact Development Manager, Roni Ferretti at

Check back each week for new content, and get involved by sharing your thoughts in the comments section, or by signing up for The Apothetae and Lark Initiative's dedicated email list to receive updates. To donate, access The Lark's donation form and enter "The Apothetae" under "Notes Regarding Gift."

Other "Telethon!" Videos