Hell’s Kitchen Event Celebrates the Abilities of the Disabled | chelseanow.com

Hell’s Kitchen Event Celebrates the Abilities of the Disabled

A still from “Musical Chairs.” At right is Anita Hollander, a Hell's Kitchen resident who will be performing before the movie’s July 13 screening. Photo courtesy of the filmmakers.

A still from “Musical Chairs.” At right is Anita Hollander, a Hell’s Kitchen resident who will be performing before the movie’s July 13 screening. Photo courtesy of the filmmakers.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | Performer and Hell’s Kitchen resident Anita Hollander will be singing songs from her musical “Still Standing” on Mon., July 13 at Mathews-Palmer Park (on 45th/46th Sts. btw. 9th & 10th Aves.) — a night that will also include the free outdoor screening of the film “Musical Chairs.”

“Still Standing” tells Hollander’s story of losing a leg to cancer and then getting back on stage four weeks after the amputation — but done in an entertaining way, she told Chelsea Now by phone.

She calls the show a musical survival guide for life catastrophes, because each of the 15 original songs represents things such as sense of humor, sense of perspective, chutzpah, family, love and imagination — the tools that help us endure hard times.

People laugh and sort of “understand that having a disability isn’t that much different from a lot of the other challenges people have in their lives,” she said.

She will perform “Here I Stand,” the title song of the musical, and “Why I Prefer One,” which is about all the advantages of having one leg — especially living in New York City.

Twenty-six years ago, when Hollander was pregnant with her daughter, she said she “knew that people were going to stare at us when we walked down the street — a one-legged mom and her daughter.”

Hollander overheard a little boy calling her a mermaid, after seeing her swimming and singing. She decided that was the “perfect idea for a song for my daughter.”

She wrote “Mommy is a Mermaid” for her daughter, so when they walked down the street together, her daughter would think about the song.

Hollander also had a small role in the movie that will be screened, “Musical Chairs,” as part of an evening presented by Hell’s Kitchen Commons, West 45/46th Street Block Association, ReelAbilities Film Festival and co-sponsored by City Councilmember Corey Johnson. It also celebrates 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The characters of Armando and Mia, from “Musical Chairs” (which features a number of Hell’s Kitchen residents). Photo courtesy of the filmmakers.

The characters Armando and Mia, from “Musical Chairs” (which features a number of Hell’s Kitchen residents). Photo courtesy of the filmmakers.

A love story about two New Yorkers, “Musical Chairs” centers on Mia, a professional dancer who loves ballroom dancing, and Armando. An accident leaves Mia using a wheelchair, but she fights through her challenges to dance once again — with help from Armando.

In the film, Hollander has a scene with Mia at a pool. Many people have come up to her on the street about it.

“The statement that it makes visually — to have one-legged swimmer telling this girl whose just recently in a wheelchair, ‘Hello, you’re alive.’ It takes only a few seconds and it’s so effective,” she said. “I love that I had a moment in a movie that affected people.”

Susan Seidelman, the film’s director, said in a phone interview, that she was attracted to the script because the film is about diversity and underdogs, and it takes place in New York. The movie was filmed throughout the city, she said.

“It had a lot of elements in it — people coming together from different cultural backgrounds, different sexual orientations,” she said. “There was just a lot interesting stuff going on, as well as it very much [being] about New York City.”

The film also features other Hell’s Kitchen residents, Hollander said, including Joey Dedio, Jaime Tirelli and Lisby Larson.

“I’m so excited that they’re going to show [the film] outside in Hell’s Kitchen,” she said.

Seidelman concurred, saying, “The idea of having neighborhood outdoor screenings, to me, is wonderful.”

Chana Widawski, of Hell’s Kitchen Commons and the West 45/46th Street Block Association, said that she happened to see Hollander perform at a ReelAbilities Film Festival. When they spoke, she realized Hollander also lived in Hell’s Kitchen.

“We figured that this was meant to be,” said Widawski in a phone interview. “We’re thrilled and very excited that she’ll be able to perform for the Hell’s Kitchen audience.”

ReelAbilities, a film festival devoted to showing films about or by people with disabilities, approached the block association and Hell’s Kitchen Commons about screening a movie at Mathews-Palmer Park, she said.

The block association has been showing films in the park for about ten years, said Widawski.

“We’re excited about this — such a positive use of our public space,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for the community to come together.”

Widawski said that several organizations in Hell’s Kitchen have helped out with the evening, including a nonprofit helping with photocopying, a nightclub that will do the projection and St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, which will provide chairs.

Contortionist and yoga dancer The Amazing Amy performs before a screening. Photo courtesy W. 45/46th St. Block Association.

Contortionist and yoga dancer The Amazing Amy performs before a screening. Photo courtesy W. 45/46th St. Block Association.

“The program is really made possible as a result of a really beautiful collaboration within the neighborhood,” she said.

Widawski encourages people to bring their own blankets, chairs, snacks and treats, and to really enjoy the park. The music and performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. and the film will begin at dusk.

Visit facebook.com/westfortyfifthstreet.blockassociation for info on this and other neighborhood activities or email hellskitchencommons@gmail.com.