We teach what we experience. An SUV rollover gave me an unexpected job and introduced me to my husband. Our mission is to educate on the culture of disability, empower others though our personal journey and entertain while doing so. Access-4-All’s programs and publications are designed for both people with and without disabilities. Our vision is of full inclusion where everyone counts and has access to a fulfilled and truly accessible life.
We promise an intimate disclosure on living with disabilities and resources that have helped us do so. We share a personal coping strategy that anyone can use to overcome and be successful in their lives. Our stories bring you into our world, and make audiences laugh and cry. We are engaging, honest and funny and we’ve done so since 1997.
Katie and Steve Banister
ROLL WITH IT! Play
A new play by Katie Rodriguez Banister & Michelle Zielinski, Directed by J. Michelle Rebollo
After an SUV rollover leaves 25-year-old Katie paralyzed from the chest down, she and her former self struggle with physical, emotional, psychological, and financial challenges as they aim to recover, and find purpose and beauty in daily living. Katie’s journey with friends, family and caregivers is inspiring, difficult, funny, and honest.
Producing Organization: The Black Mirror Theatre Company
Venue: The Kranzberg Black Box Theatre
ROLL WITH IT! is available to view on YouTube. This film was shot with 4 cameras and a mic on a joystick.
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‘Roll With It!’ Shares a Challenging Path with Warmth and Humor (poplifestl.com)
By Lynn Venhaus
With the best of intentions and a powerful personal story of transformation to tell, the Black Mirror Theatre Company fully commits to a world premiere that can make a difference in the region and beyond.
Scratch the ‘can’ and insert ‘will,’ for you will be convinced that sparkplug Katie Rodriguez Banister will change the world after you share this unforgettable journey featuring her friends, family, caregiver, and allies.
In collaboration with the Banisters’ Access-4-All, Black Mirror has produced “Roll With It!”, an original work that sheds light on disabilities and creates more acceptance and inclusion by using the tools of live theater to connect.
Artistic Director J. Michelle Rebollo adroitly staged this well-constructed exercise, which makes an impact through its realistic vignettes and heart-tugging account of a young woman’s odyssey from able-bodied at 25 to being paralyzed from the chest down in an SUV rollover accident in 1990.
Banister is a speaker, author, poet, playwright, and disability educator. She has lived independently since 1992, and with her husband, Steve, founded Access-4-All in 1997. Their mission is to educate and empower their audiences through their publications, programs, and trainings.
Rebollo has known Katie for more than 20 years, and that familiarity guides this passion project. Both were in sync on making social statements.
A natural performer, Banister has theatrical experience with Joan Lipkin’s That Uppity Theatre Company and her DisAbility Project, which she was a part of for six years.
This play sprang from a piece co-authored with Lipkin called “Go Figure,” and Banister, whose autobiography is titled “On a Roll,” teamed with local playwright Michelle Zielinski to shape the story into what is now being performed.
“Roll With It!” not only educates but entertains, in an interesting way, departing from a standard formula. Katie’s candor, honesty, and humor is apparent as she and her former self struggle with physical, emotional, psychological, and financial challenges during her recovery.
The playwrights present intimate details, anticipating questions people may not want to ask aloud. They’ve ensured that this play, above all, highlights human connection.
The actress portraying Katie is none other than the woman who lived the story – and her hard-fought truths and valuable life lessons resonate as she ultimately finds purpose, beauty, and love in everyday living.
She is aided by fellow live-wire Hannah Geisz, whose affection and enthusiasm for this material is matched by the indefatigable O.G. Geisz embodies her former 25-year-old self, the voice within who encourages, and sort of a spiritual whisperer reminding her of who she was and still is.
And there are daunting obstacles, no sugar-coating those frustrations, and the inner voice prevents her from giving up, no matter how dark it gets.
As a devoted activist, Katie sincerely embraces her role as the production’s flag bearer. With an unwavering fervor, she lets us in – yes, it’s difficult, but behold an ‘influencer’ with a considerable ‘B.S.’ detector.
The play includes flashbacks, visuals, and music to aid the storytelling. Rebollo took care of the projection design, she and Rodriguez Bannister collaborated on the sound design, Ryan Luedloff designed the lighting and the tech, Erin Schwob took care of wigs, and Rachel DeNoyer was the stage manager.
An earnest eight-person ensemble portrayed different roles – mainly health care professionals, family, friends, and lawyers: Kelly Ballard, Dennis Calvin, Tyler Gotsis, Kristen Hays, Hannah (Mo) Moellering, Claire Sackman, Luke Steffen, and Rob Tierney. Gotsis played Katie’s future husband Steve.
With its positive attitude and indelible heroine, “Roll With It!” delivers insight – and warmth. It must be a call to action, for it’s not enough to describe it as inspiring.
The Black Mirror Theatre Company presents “Roll With It!” as a one-act without an intermission on Oct. 13-14 and 19-21 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 15-16 and 22-23 at 3 p.m. at the Kranzberg Arts Center Black Box Theatre, 501 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis. Tickets are available through MetroTix. For more information: www.blackmirrortheatre.org
To learn more, visit Katie Rodriguez Bannister’s website, www.awomanonwheels.com
Review of Roll With It at the Black Mirror Theatre Company (hecmedia.org)
Roll With It begins with a video shot through the windshield of an SUV tooling down a two-lane highway on a springlike day in February. The first sounds heard are happy voices from within the vehicle. The next sounds are of a car crash.
This accident in 1990 changed the life of 25-year-old Katie Rodriguez, a passenger in the SUV, who had been wearing a seatbelt that failed. Her injuries left her paralyzed from the chest down. Roll With It is a gripping and inspiring account of Rodriguez’s life after the crash. The play covers her recovery from physical, emotional, and financial challenges and her success in living independently, finding love, and integrating all her experiences into a new sense of self. She is now a speaker, author, and disability educator as well as an actor, playwright, and poet.
Roll With It is receiving its world premiere in a fine production by the Black Mirror Theatre Company in collaboration with Access-4-All, which was founded by Rodriguez (now Rodriguez Banister) and her husband, Steve Banister, in 1997.
Rodriguez Banister and Michelle Zielinski wrote the play. The director of the premiere is J. Michelle Rebollo, Black Mirror’s president and artistic director, who has had a long involvement in this project.
The story is told with a strong through line and well-chosen details. Rodriguez Banister builds credibility for the script with her candor about her life both before and after the accident. The script includes a surprising amount of humor.
One of the most important strands of the plot is Katie’s coming to terms with her new reality. An internal process like this one is difficult to portray dramatically if only one person can speak about it. The masterstroke in the construction of Roll With It is the appearance of Katie’s earlier self not only in flashbacks but also after the accident. Katie at 25 continually interacts with the Katie who is maturing to document the many steps on the road to self-actualization.
Rodriguez Banister does not take it for granted that she will be convincing simply because she is playing herself. She gives a highly committed and disciplined performance. Her forceful stage presence is an indication of her long experience as an actor. In the late 1990s, she was a founding member of That Uppity Theatre Company’s DisAbility Project (which developed and presented multidisciplinary performance pieces on the culture of disability) and worked with the company for six years.
As pre-accident Katie, Hannah Geisz makes it clear that she is an observer of the action and a participant in an inner journey. Geisz is alive to every moment onstage and responds with insight and subtlety to what she sees around her and what she hears from her alter ego. The rapport between the two Katies is a highlight of the Black Mirror production.
Even though the eight performers in the ensemble all play multiple roles, the scenes unfold with clarity under Rebollo’s astute direction. The cast members include Kelly Ballard, Dennis Calvin, Tyler Gotsis, Kristen Hays, Hannah (Mo) Moellering, Claire Sackman, Luke Steffen, and Rob Tierney.
The technical work includes notable contributions by technical director and lighting designer Ryan Luedloff, production stage manager Rachel DeNoyer, wig designer Erin Schwob, projection designer Rebollo, and sound designers Rodriguez Banister and Rebollo
Roll With It continues through October 23 at the Kranzberg Arts Center Black Box Theater, 501 North Grand Boulevard. Starting times are 7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday,
Photo by Brian J. Rolf
From left, Hannah Geisz as Katie before the accident, Katie Rodriguez Banister as Katie, as Tyler Gotsis as Steve Banister.
- Written by Michelle Kenyon
Black Mirror Theatre Company has returned to the stage with a world premiere production starring and co-authored by its subject. “Roll With It!” is a highly personal look at writer, speaker, and disability activist Katie Rodriguez Banister's life and relationships with family, friends, the world, and herself. It's an inventively staged production that tells a fascinating story, even if it could use a little bit of editing.
The stars of this production are unquestionably Banister, who plays herself and co-wrote the script with Michelle Zielinski, and Hannah Geisz, who plays Katie Before the Accident, who sticks around with Katie while her life story plays out in the form of vignettes, flashbacks, and commentary. The car accident that changed Katie's life and left her paralyzed from the chest down is the major inciting incident, but the main subject is Katie herself, as she learns to deal with her own issues not just stemming from the accident, but also relating to her relationship with her parents, her own self-image, and more. The play also recounts her recovery from the accident, her lawsuit of the company that made the car she was riding in on that fateful day, her involvement in theatre and in disability education and activism, and her meeting the man who would eventually become her husband--Steve Banister, played by Tyler Gotsis. Ultimately, though, the story is about Katie coming to terms with herself, and learning to accept the earlier version of herself along with who she becomes. This aspect is inventively portrayed through the device of having two "Katies" who not only act out events as they happened, but who also directly interact with one another, wrestling with their issues in a visual, visceral way that forms most of the compelling drama, and humor, in this production.
The two main performers are both excellent, portraying a full range of emotions and interacting with energy, intensity, and credible emotion. They are supported by an ensemble of supporting players (Kelly Ballard, Dennis Calvin, Gotsis, Kristen Hayes, Hannah "Mo" Moellering", Claire Sackman, Luke Steffen, and Rob Tierney), who each play a variety of roles including friends, colleagues, family, doctors, nurses, lawyers, and more as Katie's story plays out in a series of scenes. For the most part, the staging is compelling, although there are some uneven moments, and a few "backstory" moments that could be explained more clearly. Still, Banister's story is fascinating and compelling, and this play reflects that reality well.
Technically, it's a simply staged show with some memorable projections by director J. Michelle Rebollo, as well as excellent lighting by Ryan Luedloff and sound design by Banister and Rebollo. Overall, “Roll With It!” is a promising new work that features a pair of impressive performances and tells a remarkable and fascinating true life story. Performances of Black Mirror’s “Roll With It!” continue through October 23rd at the Kranzberg Center in Grand Center.