Betsy Wheeler

Photo by Paul Neevel

On Friday, June 8, at 8 pm, and 2 pm Sunday, June 10, the University of Oregon Disability Studies Minor and the Shenanigans Theater Company will present an original musical play, Heroes From Another Earth, free and open to the public, at 123 Global Scholars Hall, 1710 E 15th Avenue in Eugene. Street parking is free on Sunday and after 8 pm on Friday. The play was written and will be performed in a collaboration between UO students in Professor Betsy Wheeler’s Living Theater class and adults with disabilities from the local community. “The play is a hybrid of life stories from the group plus superhero and sci-fi stories, with five original songs,” Wheeler says. “A realistic tale, about life with disabilities in a world that doesn’t understand, rockets off into stories about a world where people would like to live, then into not one, but two superhero universes.” After graduating in 1981 from Bowdoin College in Maine, Wheeler worked in publishing at St. Martin’s Press in New York, then studied for masters and Ph.D. degrees in comparative literature at the City University of New York and UC Berkeley. “I ran after-school programs for homeless and low-income kids in Manhattan and in Oakland,” she says. “I’m always interested in kids.” When she finished her doctorate in 1996, Wheeler was hired by the UO. “My colleagues have encouraged me to be creative,” she says. “I’ve always done a combination of standard fare and my own inventions.” She launched a service learning curriculum, teaching young adult and children’s literature, then sending her students out to serve internships in local schools. Her book on representations of disability in young adult and children’s literature, titled Handiland: The Crippest Place on Earth, will be published by the University of Michigan Press in 2019.