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Finding up side of Down syndrome



“Afraid To Look Down” is all about expectations. This special presentation by Invisible Theatre of a traveling one-man production by Cullen Douglas is brought to Tucson during National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Douglas’ play is based on his personal experience as a first-time father to his first-born son, Gabriel, born with Down syndrome. IT advises the show is not appropriate for children.

“I didn’t know how to be a father to a child with a disability,” Douglas said. “Slowly however, through some pretty extraordinary – as well as life’s everyday mundane events – we began to move forward.

“I fell in love with my son. I think ultimately the first year of his life was about me learning to get out of my own way, to let him teach me how to be a father.”

That journey through the first year of Gabriel’s life is the arc of “Afraid To Look Down,” performed on a bare stage with only a single chair for a prop. Douglas tells his story, as well as that of his wife Rachel, “warts and all.”

“I was resolved to share only the truth, to be unflinchingly honest.” To that end this father-in-training has included a roller-coaster ride of anecdotes, plummeting into the lows and soaring with the joys of watching Gabriel grow on his own terms.

One of the lows was realizing that some of the couple’s friends stopped returning calls to get together for family outings. Another was the friend who called to say Douglas should start praying to God really hard, because the friend believed Gabriel’s birth was the work of Satan.

“Afraid To Look Down” includes uplifting stories of help from support groups, of shifting gears to learn about what to expect in the first year of his son’s life and the happiness at seeing his son pass through though those early thresholds of development.

Douglas reports that these days Gabriel is a healthy 8-year-old who is doing great in school, loves to swim, sing, dance and put on his own shows. He also likes to fight dragons in his favorite video game.

The actor works in television, had a supporting role in John Sayles’ movie “Sunshine State” and has the lead role in a film adaptation of Stephen King’s “Gotham CafĂ©.”


What: Invisible Theatre presents “Afraid To Look Down” by Cullen Douglas.

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28, 8 p.m. Oct. 29, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 30.

Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

Tickets: $20; discounts for IT season ticket holders and groups of 10 or more.

Details: For reservations, call 882-9721.

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