Last week I visited Zeno Mountain Farm in Lincoln, Vermont to see a musical, The Best Summer Ever: A Love Story put on by the most diverse cast that I have ever seen. On their website the founders write:Zeno is a community of people who move, think, act, perform, and contribute in wonderfully unique ways. We actively embrace this diversity and strive to celebrate each other through art and adventure in every form. The most important thing in the whole world to us human beings is friendship, community, and the knowledge that we matter to each other.
The cast of the play included young people and adults with Down Syndrome, with Cerebral palsy, and with other disorders, as well as able bodied friends including the founders. The cast danced, sang, whooped, laughed, delivered lines, and generally threw themselves into the joyful and challenging production. My dear friend, Laura and I were speechless, in tears, laughing, sighing, amazed and deeply grateful that we could be there to participate with this place and at this event. Later we toured the beautiful campus high on a mountaintop in Lincoln with distant, sweeping views of the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. Our tour guide was a young woman with Downs Syndrome who says that Zeno is the only place where she is truly accepted and celebrated.
The two brothers, Will and Peter Halby and their respective spouses who founded Zeno, purchased the land in Lincoln in 2008 and have slowly built the campus there. Zeno is in session for a month in July and each summer they produce a play. Other programs that they host and organize are all over the country including California where they produce a movie every year. One of their recent movies, Bulletproof Jackson, was the focus of a documentary titled Becoming Bulletproof. Ashley and I watched the documentary the other night and had the same response that Laura and I experienced at the play... amazement, tears, empathy, and deep respect for all the people who are working to live dreams together as partners, not in institutions but on stage and on movie sets, with patience, great humor, dignity and hard work.
See the movie, Becoming Bulletproof. You will be amazed. And if you are in Vermont, go to Zeno Mountain Farm for a visit and to see the play they put on every year. It will change you. Carolina Rinaldi says and has written that to learn is to change and to be transformed. She says that to learn is to love, with great respect for, and through all our differences. This is what is happening at Zeno and it is humbling.