After her first attack at age 15, V Kyle Tyson never gave up on her performing goals.
“There was never a moment of ‘I can’t do it anymore,’” Tyson said. “There was no second thought.”
Tyson has transverse myelitis and said her immune system attacks her spinal column. Sometimes, she can walk and dance, although she needs plenty of resting time to perform this kind of movement. Sometimes, she can’t move on her left or right side. She has taught herself to be ambidextrous.
She doesn’t want people to identify her with an illness, but for who she really is.
“I’m very good at keeping it out of my mind’s eye and out of other people’s view,” Tyson said. “It’s something that I have but not who I am.”
She has performed on her feet in West Side Story and has choreographed for Broadway Mavericks. For A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which premieres Wednesday, she will take a seat and perform the role in her wheelchair.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Tyson’s favorite Shakespearean play, she said, and she hopes the audience will get a better understanding and appreciation for William Shakespeare’s work.
She has the role of one of the mechanicals, a tinker who performs a play within the overarching play.
Director Felicia Bertch said she wanted Tyson to perform the role in her wheelchair because it made sense for the character and for Tyson. Also, Bertch wanted to challenge Tyson with a speaking part.
This isn’t the first time Tyson has performed in her wheelchair. She used to dance in it. Performing has always been a constant in her life, older sister Victoria Lagorio said.
“She always wanted to be on a stage, and I knew she would be on a stage no matter what,” Lagorio said. “If she wanted to, she would’ve requested the hospital bed be rolled out onto the stage.”
Spatial awareness for other cast members is something to consider when working with Tyson. Because she's in a wheelchair, she has to show fluidity in scene without colliding with other actors, she said.
Though Tyson can’t do the same warmups as other students, Bertch said she tries to make sure she never feels left out.
When Tyson had an attack at school last month, Bertch stayed with her in the hospital.
“I would have never wanted to go to the hospital by myself,” Bertch said. “It’s worth it canceling anything to make sure she knows that there are people that are there to support her.”
Tyson’s mom, Laura Norman Tyson, lives in Oklahoma and said being away from her daughter is challenging for her, especially when she has relapses.
She will attend A Midsummer Night’s Dream to see her daughter perform.
V Kyle Tyson said her big dream is to continue performing while striving toward a career in drama and movement therapy. She wants to work with kids who have illnesses similar to hers.
“I want to give a voice to what’s been called ‘invisible disabilities,’” she said. “I want to give a voice to those people who don’t feel like they can stand up and say, ‘This is who I am, this is what I do.’”