Scott Dodson, 212-780-2599, email@example.com
NEW YORK, July 26, 2023 /PRNewswire/ Dreams are becoming reality for 55-year-old Martin Neal. Two years ago, he made his debut on the Great White Way with AHRC New York City On Broadway theater group, formed with the support of veteran stage actor Dale Hensley. Then, with the assistance of AHRC NYC staff, Neal became a podcast co-host presenting WKRTM, playing classic songs and conducting interviews with a variety of guests. Now, Neal has written a book My First Time on Broadway, chronicling his journey to the stage.
As the Americans with Disabilities Act turns 29 this week, Neal, a Brooklyn resident, personifies the law, which was designed to level the playing field for people with disabilities. With a visual impairment and slight hearing loss, Neal receives support from AHRC NYC, a 70-year-old organization serving people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families. He does not let any challenges stop him from pursuing his dreams.
“Your dreams and hopes will keep you alive,” he writes in his book. Neal was celebrated recently at a meet-and-greet the author for nearly 75 members of AHRC NYC’s Next Chapter Book Clubs at Berkley College in midtown Manhattan. He was interviewed and audience members read selections from his book.
Journey to Broadway
Neal traced his goal of performing back to his youth. “I was thinking about all of the TV shows I watched as a child. All the shows gave me a dream,” he said. “I listened to music and everybody singing on those TV shows. I would dream to be on those shows and now my dream has come true.”
The words carry a message to readers, Neal says. “…stay strong when following your dreams,” he writes. “Believe in yourself that you can do whatever it is that you want to do. Never doubt yourself and don’t let anyone put doubts in you or put you down. You must let them know that you can do it and you will prove it to yourself not to them.”
Asked what it’s like to perform under the lights, Neal said, “I feel great being on the stage.” He credits Hensley, who initially volunteered with AHRC NYC and is now an art consultant, for “encouraging me to go even further.”
Hensley calls Neal the “wise sage” of AHRC NYC On Broadway. “Every single performer looks up to him for soulful thoughts, his bright ideas and his never-ending professional approach to everything we do. And, I must say, he encourages me to go further.”
Leading the Life He Chooses
“Martin is leading the life he chooses and the ADA has created opportunities where few existed before,” said Marco Damiani, CEO of AHRC New York City. “After all, it took until 2019 for the first actress in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award (Ali Stroker in Oklahoma.)”
Neal also shares original poems throughout the book. He was inspired by the poetry of others at his AHRC NYC day program.
Neal spent a little more than a year writing his book. “Even though I have a visual impairment, I can write in other ways, without using paper and pens or machines and all that,” Martin told the group. “I wrote a book in a way called dictating, which means I tell someone what I want to say and they write it down.”
‘Use Your Mind and Your Talents’
After the interview, group members read passages from the book aloud. AHRC NYC has 16 Next Chapter Book Clubs throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.
Neal urged his fellow book club members to pursue their dreams, especially if they would like to become an author. “… you have to use your mind and talents to write whatever it is you want to write about because I want you to help inspire other people,” he said. “Never let anybody tell you that you don’t have any talent, because you do.”
“Keep on following your dreams and see where your dreams are going to take you.”
Learn more about Martin Neal on his website.
About AHRC New York City
A family-governed organization founded 70 years ago, AHRC New York City is one of the largest not-for-profit health and human services organizations in the nation committed to finding ways for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to build full lives as defined by each person. With a staff of over 5,000, AHRC NYC offers an array of services that annually touches the lives of 15,000 people and their families in the five boroughs. The organization is part of a social justice movement grounded in our common humanity and the beauty of human difference.
AHRC New York City