At every efficiency of his play “Storm Studying,” the author and actor Neil Marcus supplied his viewers a reminder: “Incapacity will not be a courageous battle or braveness within the face of adversity. Incapacity is an artwork. It’s an ingenious strategy to dwell.”
Mr. Marcus, who had dystonia, a neurological dysfunction that causes involuntary muscle contractions and impacts speech, starred within the play, which comically illuminated how he handed by the world in a typical week, by vignettes of him conversing with grocery consumers, medical doctors and passers-by.
In 1988, when the present had its premiere on the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara, Calif., individuals most of the time appeared away from these with disabilities. “We’ve at all times been taught as youngsters we don’t level, don’t chuckle, simply principally ignore them,” Rod Lathim, the director of “Storm Studying,” stated in an interview.
In distinction, “Storm Studying” inspired audiences to chuckle with Mr. Marcus about his experiences.
“Neil invited and welcomed, and in some circumstances demanded that folks look,” Mr. Lathim stated. “And so he introduced them into his actuality, which was not a actuality of incapacity; it was a actuality of his definition of life.”
The success and longevity of the play, which toured all through the nation till 1996, turned Mr. Marcus right into a pioneer of the incapacity tradition motion. He known as his work a reclamation of personhood in a world decided to disclaim individuals with disabilities their autonomy.
Mr. Marcus died on Nov. 17 at his residence in Berkeley, Calif. He was 67.
His sister Kendra Marcus stated the trigger was dystonia.
In 1987, Mr. Marcus and his brother Roger contacted Mr. Lathim, the director of Entry Theater, a Santa Barbara firm that commonly mounted performs that includes disabled artists. Neil Marcus despatched over samples of his writing and requested Mr. Lathim if the theater can be keen on adapting them.
Their dialog led to the genesis of “Storm Studying.” Mr. Marcus, his brother and Mr. Lathim labored collectively to draft the play, whose forged of three initially additionally included Roger as “The Voice,” who portrayed Neil’s ideas throughout his interactions (the position was later performed by Matthew Ingersoll), in addition to an indication language interpreter.
The present was bodily taxing for Mr. Marcus. Nevertheless it additionally invigorated him.
“There’s no drug, there’s no therapy, that’s, in my view, as highly effective because the interplay between a dwell viewers and an artist on the stage,” Mr. Lathim stated. “And watching Neil remodel from that was astounding.”
Scenes from “Storm Studying” had been filmed for NBC as a part of a 1989 television special about disability, “From the Heart,” hosted by the actor Michael Douglas. The cast reunited in 2018 for a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.
Neil Marcus was born on Jan. 3, 1954, in Scarsdale, N.Y., the youngest of five children of Wil Marcus, who worked in public relations, and Lydia (Perera) Marcus, an actor. When Neil was 6, the family moved to Ojai, Calif.
Neil was 8 when he learned he had dystonia, and he attempted suicide at 14 after a taxing series of surgeries, he said in a 2006 oral history interview for the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.
But counseling gave him confidence. He attended Ojai Valley School, where he was often spotted zooming around in a golf cart. After graduating from high school as valedictorian in 1971, he traveled to Laos; when he returned, he hitchhiked around the West Coast and eventually took classes at Fairhaven College, part of Western Washington University, and elsewhere. He moved to Berkeley in 1980 and became active in the disability activist community there.
He explored art through various partnerships. With professional dancers, he participated in “contact improvisation” performances, which eschewed formal choreography and instead followed the seemingly frenetic movements of Mr. Marcus’s dystonia.
He also wrote widely. He worked with the University of Michigan professor and activist Petra Kuppers on the Olimpias Performance Research Project, an artist collective that spotlights performers with disabilities in performances and documentaries. Their conversations on disability as art were published in a 2009 essay, “Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance.” The two also wrote a book, “Cripple Poetics: A Love Story” (2008), which features poetry and photography highlighting the physicality and sensuality of disability.
The Neil Marcus Papers, including his essays, poems and correspondence, are held at the Bancroft Library.
In addition to his sister Kendra, Mr. Marcus is survived by another sister, Wendy Marcus, and his brothers, Roger and Russell.
In 2014 the Smithsonian National Museum of American History commissioned Mr. Marcus to write a poem dedicating its online exhibition “EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America.”
His poem began:
“If there was a country called disabled, I would be from there./I live disabled culture, eat disabled food, make disabled love,/cry disabled tears, climb disabled mountains and tell disabled stories.”