My kingdom for a cane

OSF staffer puts talented artists to good use in spoofing a social media phenomenon
Actor Ruy Iskandar gets the cane treatment during Alickís recent visit to China as a guest of the Wuzhen Theater Festival.Photo courtesy of William YeuKun

Harnessing the sheer power of her cane, Claudia Alick focuses a ball of energy that blasts those around her, sending them sailing through the air.

Or so it appears in a humorous series of photos she's created playing off a new Internet meme, hadouken.

"I giggle like a little girl every time I do them," says Alick, community associate producer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. "I ask people to jump and I always feel very fierce after I've done them."

Alick depends on a cane for balance because of a muscle disorder. But in her "Hadoucane" series, her disability becomes a source of power playing off a martial arts move called hadouken popular in the "Street Fighter" video game.

Parodies of hadouken began spreading through the social-media realm a few months ago when a group of Japanese schoolgirls started the trend, according to multiple websites.

Alick never played "Street Fighter," but she says that didn't stop her from having fun with the new trend.

"Luckily when these things enter our culture, you don't have to participate in this source material to participate in the meme," says Alick. "It's like an offshoot of an offshoot of an offshoot."

Alick, who schedules OSF's popular Green Show performances, says she's surrounded by performing artists all day as part of her work and her social life, so finding people to pose in the photos hasn't been difficult.

"It's not a formal artistic project, it's a goof, but I'm continuing to do it," she says. "I'm a lucky person who crosses paths with some pretty amazing human beings. It's actually kind of impressive."

The Internet is filled with photos of people in hadouken poses, but Alick hasn't noticed anyone else using a cane as a source of power.

"I've been Googling 'Hadouken' and 'disability,' because it just seems obvious, and yet I haven't seen any," she says. "I'm hoping there are other human beings who have had this good idea or will be inspired to do it."

Alick's struggle with mobility came on suddenly and mysteriously in 2009, at times forcing her to use an electric wheelchair and now, the cane.

"People think of my cane as a fashion accessory," she says. "People assume I must have turned an ankle, but I work with many body-workers. I'm very grateful to live in the Rogue Valley where we have amazing body-workers, so I have a lot of people who help me keep this vessel upright."

Even before she began dealing with her muscle disorder, she had made a promise to work with people with disabilities.

"It's interesting being an artist with a disability as well as being a producer who presents artists with disabilities. It's nice to work at a theater that already had the elevators and buttons for opening up the doors," says Alick.

Co-worker Michael Maag, lighting, video and projections manager at OSF, who uses a motorized wheelchair because of a spinal injury, has snapped some of Alick's Hadoucane photos.

"As someone with disabilities, I am encouraged and en-happied by seeing the joy and enthusiasm with which Claudia approaches her life," Maag says.

"Claudia and I share the principle that we are not defined by our disabilities, yet they are a part of us. What can be better than being gregarious, outgoing and fun-loving regardless of our supposed disabilities?"

On Oct. 7, Alick will perform her one-person show all about her mysterious illness and her adventures in finding multiple diagnoses as part of OSF's presenting series "Fill in the Blank" at the Thomas Theatre.

"I don't think disability should be made invisible, because it's nothing to be ashamed of," says Alick.

During the past few months, Alick has made "Hadoucane" photos with friends at the theater, but also visitors she works with for OSF, including hosts of the monthly Hip Hop Poetry Open Mic. She's done Hadoucane photos with muMs da Schemer, Michele Serros and with the Kattywampus Circus performers, when they put on a show recently at the Historic Ashland Armory.

"They all tickle me, for all different reasons," she says. "I love the one I have with Dawn-Lyen Gardner (who plays Imogen in this season's 'Cymbeline'). It was taken by Michael Maag. My favorite one is where all you see is her foot."

Perhaps one of the most striking is the Hadoucane photo she took on May 22 with the Penn State Glee Club.

"They were like, 'Oh, no problem, we know what that is.' I love the group shots, with lots of people jumping in the air," says Alick.

Early in May, Alick attended the Wuzhen Theater Festival in China as a guest of the theater. She asked friends and strangers to pose in Hadoucane photos with her, even though there was a language barrier.

"In China they were like, 'What are you talking about?' I don't speak Mandarin. I would just show them the pictures, and they would be like, 'Oh, yeah, no problem,' " Alick says.

Some photos have been taken by professional photographers, but most have been by strangers or friends with just an iPhone. It's a tricky shot to capture — Alick isn't just posing with her cane up in the air, she's swinging it up at the same time the other person jumps.

"I love the capturing of this moment," she says. "I do one of two things — I either purse my mouth and squint my eyes or make my mouth really big and my eyes really big."

A few of the most impressive photos have been captured in just one take. Alick has since started an album on her Facebook page in which she adds the photos, but all of the pictures can be seen on her blog at www.claudiaalick.blogspot.com, which is now full of poetry and Hadoucane pictures, she says.

"It's a lovely gathering of human beings," she says. "I'm going to keep on doing it until it stops making me happy."

Reach Mandy Valencia at avalencia@mailtribune.com.



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