Friday, December 24, 2010

Virginia man with CP inspired by Christmastime to write play for church

From Fairfax County Times in Va.:

For Zak Lyon (pictured), the spirit of giving this season has led to a dream come true.

The budding playwright, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, is a member of the youth drama ministry, ALIVE!, at Fairfax United Methodist Church in Fairfax City.

As part of its annual theatrical productions, the ministry puts on a holiday-themed play every Christmas Eve. This year's play was written by Lyon, 26, of Fairfax, who also will direct it.

Lyon lives at home with his mother. He was home-schooled for the majority of his education, although he attended Northern Virginia Community College for a time and is a well-read student of dramatic literature. He claims Shakespeare and Moliere as influences.

The upcoming production, which will be the first play he's written, is called, "The Least and the Greatest: An ADVENTure." Lyon, who says he writes dialogue first and fills in the details second, calls his play a "Nativity comedy with a twist."

The production includes all the familiar players: Jesus, Mary, Joseph and three Wise Men. But the familiarity ends there, Lyon said.

"You will see all these characters in ways you've never seen before," he said.

The play's program lists characters including a used donkey salesman, three nerdy astronomers, a nefarious king and his questioning vizier, a lost shepherd and his groupies, along with the holy family, all on the journey to Bethlehem.

Chris Crowl, the founder and director of ALIVE!, said he is impressed by Lyon's talent as a playwright.

"Zak has a very unique, interesting voice in the way he writes," Crowl said. "And he certainly knows more about theater than I do."

"This is my passion and what I want to do with my life," Lyon said.

Lyon's mother, Jody Lyon, said her son always has had an interest in acting, writing and plays.

"He began writing stories when he was 6 years old," she said. "When he was 13 and 14, he would act out characters in stories he would hear in Bible school."

Until he turned 18, he was a member of the Young People's Theatre in Alexandria and performed at the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre in Lorton, she said.

"I have always been a Christmas kind of guy," Zak Lyon said. "Having the opportunity to write a one-act Christmas play has been both an honor and a thrill. I tend to appreciate Christmas stories with a little twist that allow people to see new insights about the familiar holiday stories we all know and love."

In addition to the holiday production, Lyon said that he has begun writing a "pantomime comedy" and a play based on a short story by Mark Twain.

"Zak is a real student of theater and film," said Tim Gerde, pastor of Fairfax United Methodist Church.

"I have never encountered anyone as passionate; having to work through the restrictions of a physical disability and accomplishing so much. Zak is both gifted and extremely passionate."

"This is my dream," Lyon said of the upcoming production. "I'm so proud of everyone who has helped me achieve it by bringing this play to life."