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Creative producer and performer, Grace Colsey, performs with a ukulele on a dimly lit stage.

Great art makes the audience feel something – and for collaborators Grace Colsey (they/them) and Jaziel ‘Jazz’ Siegertsz (he/him), they want their audience to feel seen, connected and inspired.

Their show, Smiling Through The Human, took out the My Plan Manager Access Award at the 2024 Adelaide Fringe. The award celebrates and recognises a creative or an event with lived experience of disability.

Grace says the show, which draws on music, song and existential comedy, shares both the reality and the hope of living with neurodivergence and mental illness.

“I started writing the show because art that had made me feel seen as someone who experiences mental illness and is very, very neurodivergent was quite scarce,” says Grace.

“I had a bunch of songs I was working on, they all happened to be about similar topics, namely mental health and neurodivergence. I wanted to help people feel seen and understood in this chaotic, weird and un-wonderful existence, and to recognise how weird it is to exist in a world that is fundamentally not built for us.”

However Jazz says the show is also about leaving the audience with a message of optimism.

“One of the best things we do with this show, Grace, you leave everyone on a hopeful note with your last song, Air,” says Jazz.

“It can be dangerous to look at mental illness and bring the audience to a dark place and leave them there. You leave everyone feeling connected to this community they find around them. They feel inspired and seen, and it’s a breath of fresh air, something new – to walk away from the show, to keep trudging through every day.”

Grace performing in Smiling Through The Human at the 2024 Adelaide Fringe.

Grace and Jazz say they were committed to accessibility for their audience, including choosing at least one wheelchair-accessible venue, having AUSLAN interpreters where possible, holding some relaxed sessions without strong lighting at the Curiositeas Tea Room, providing fidget toys for members of the audience to use, and offering access to a sensory space at My Lover Cindi.

It’s why winning the My Plan Manager Access Award was so meaningful for the pair – even though they missed the awards ceremony!

“It was very fitting and ironic – we forgot the awards ceremony was on because we had a show that day,” says Grace. “We were doing a sound check and Kate – one of the venue owners of My Lover Cindi – was like ‘congratulations on the award!’”

“And we had absolutely no idea… the irony when we found out the award we won,” injects Jazz.

“You know we’re not faking it! But also, the Access Award is so special to us as disabled artists who made a show about disability for disabled people – it feels like we’ve come full circle,” says Grace.

“It helps us to keep making the art we want to make, and it hopefully means we’ll be able to put it in front of as many people as possible.”

Next on the cards for the pair – after a well-deserved break – are plans to take Smiling Through The Human to regional audiences and bring new projects to the stage in coming years.

“As we both have ADHD, and Grace is autistic, and we both have mental illnesses, we got to a point where we almost cancelled the entire season because of how difficult it is to do a production with two ADHD people dealing with other stuff,” says Jazz.

“But being able to rely on each other and push through and having this be the outcome with fostering community and winning this award, it makes us feel like we made the right decision, and it was worth it, as we put some good out into the world.”

Jazz says both he and Grace will keep advocating for accessibility in the arts and everywhere.

“I think the biggest takeaway in winning the Access Award is that accessibility isn’t just for the people who need it, it makes things better for everyone,” he says. “There can be a lot of feeling like you have to apologise for your disability – it’s nice to have accommodations where you don’t have to keep apologising for existing.”

For more information and future shows, view Grace’s linktree here, and Jaziel’s linktree here.

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Creative producer and performer, Grace Colsey, performs with a ukulele on a dimly lit stage.

Art for everyone

Great art makes the audience feel something – and for collaborators Grace Colsey (they/them) and Jaziel ‘Jazz’ Siegertsz (he/him), they want their audience to feel seen, connected and inspired.
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Ready to work

Disability Employment Service providers support people with disability to prepare for employment, find a job and work towards succeeding in their chosen path.
A person in a wheelchair uses their laptop.

Kinora – a world of possibilities at your fingertips

A free-to-access community that’s close-knit, solutions-focused, and there to lift its members up is great for everyone!

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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

My Plan Manager acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.
© My Plan Manager 2020
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