Anita Hollander is the true definition of a disability warrior.
Performing around the world, from The White House to the UN in Geneva, has allowed Anita to not only see mounds of personal success, but also successes in addressing inclusion for those with disabilities in the entertainment industry.
Liner Legal was lucky enough to interview Anita and discover the truth behind her incredible journey.
LL: I read that you lost your leg to cancer in 1977. Tell me more about this story. Were you optimistic at the time? Or did it take time to return to a positive state?
AH: I first got cancer in 1977 (age 21), at which time the motor nerve of my left leg was removed (not the whole leg). The cancer recurred 5 yrs later (age 26), at which time the leg was amputated. In both cases I was involved in something exciting: I was a junior at Carnegie Mellon in 1977 and was anxious to get back to school and graduate with my class. In 1982 I was rehearsing a musical in Boston (directing & performing) so I needed to get back to rehearsals, and I opened in the show 4 weeks after the amputation. So, in either case, there was no time for self-pity or negativity – I was lucky to have a goal and that kept me positive.
LL: If my research proves right, you’re currently in the middle of a month-long run of your musical, Still Standing, in Boston. Tell me more about this musical. When did it first premier and what made you decide to start it?
AH: I did the monthlong run in Boston a year ago (2019). My latest exciting gig was performing Still Standing in Seoul, South Korea this past December 2019, and I premiered my newest solo musical Spectacular Falls back in September 2019 in NYC. Still Standing was premiered in 1993 and since then I’ve performed it all over the country and throughout the world, including Off-Brodway, Kennedy Center, The White House, and in many cities (NY, LA, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Tampa, etc). It’s a Musical Survival Guide for Life’s Catastrophes, which I wrote from my experiences through cancer and career, marriage & childbirth. Each song represents a tool for survival. I began writing it after my dear friend, composer Michael Devon, died of AIDS, after asking me how I survived cancer.
LL: You have had such a full and incredible career. Did you ever expect that this is what your life would be like? What did you dream of doing as a kid?
AH: I only ever dreamed of doing exactly what I’ve been doing! I had two goals as a child:
1) To sing for the whole world, (I sang at the UN in Geneva, which was like singing for the whole world!), and
2) to be in a Broadway show. (I’ve now gotten down to the last two actresses for lead roles in 6 Bway shows – so I’m still working on that!)
LL: What’s the most rewarding part of your career now and where do you see yourself going in the future?
AH: I’m amazed that at an age where most actresses are not getting work, I’m getting more work than I ever imagined! I attribute this to two things:
1) The four decades I’ve fought for inclusion of Performers With Disabilities in film, TV, Theatre & all media as National Chair of SAG-AFTRA PWD Committee. (SAG-AFTRA is Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of TV & Radio Artists), and
2) the fact that I made my own work by writing my own shows, and now it’s paying off in spades! (You can find the CDs of my two shows online at iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, CD baby & more)
LL: As you know, many of our clients are severely disabled and are starting a new chapter of their lives. Do you have any encouraging words or advice for them?
AH: There is more awareness now, and more technology, than when I became disabled. So there are more platforms and methods to express yourself. Use whatever you can to tell your story, to put yourself out there for an unconventional job, to show up and be present. Because our movement has finally become more prevalent in the world. Look up the Ruderman Foundation, Lights Camera Access, and RespectAbility for opportunities of jobs and mentoring.
To learn more about Anita Hollander and her upcoming performances, visit www.anitahollander.com.
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