Personal Story

Feature Issue on Careers in The Arts for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

Poetry and Motion

Author(s)

Michael James Brindley has been an Interact artist since 1997 and lives in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Patty Brindley , Mike’s mom, lives in Bloomington, Minnesota.

A young, white man with a black beard and moustache and blue-rimmed glasses stares straight ahead, slightly squinting and not smiling.

Michael James Brindley

Working in theater productions, I (Mike) feel happy enough to fill the whole entire stage. I keep up my intelligence of words, which helps me speak and move. I perform my own pieces, letting the inner art form come out.

When I dance among others, it keeps me alive every time. And when I meld my own soul and spirit on stage, I feel in love all over again. Acting is to me how I keep my feet planted, and slanted, beautifully. It makes me younger at heart, and it improves my skills and keeps them crisp. I hope to take more tour trips again for my career. I have had many important roles, big and small. I am strong in memorizing script lines for plays and shows. I've been in a lot of them, and what I feel about theater is, it grabs my heart with joy.

Forty-six years ago, when Mike was born, the doctor told me (Patty) to give him away. “Have another baby to replace him because he will never know you, or love you, and he will never amount to anything,” the doctor said.

Years later, in 1997, after working many menial jobs, Mike and I took a leap of faith and applied to Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. Who would have dreamed that he would perform with Interact in Scandinavia, England, New Orleans, Vancouver and Thailand? In Thailand, Mike was a leader, mentor, and teacher to children with Down syndrome and other disability labels. He led warm-ups every morning and helped the aspiring actors, singers, and dancers fulfill their dreams.

Mike has written more than 5,000 poems now. He wrote the poem Life of Death for a show that included a scene on the death penalty. There is always a lot of prep and discussion about the storyline and at the time, Texas was executing people with developmental delays. Mike understood very clearly what the death penalty meant.

He has honed his art over the last 24 years at Interact and has learned to speak the language of poetry. He has baffled IQ assessors with the amount of information he has learned from researching and writing all the shows in which he’s been involved.

And in the end, it’s Mike who defined himself…a poet, an actor, a dancer.  It’s always been this way.

Life of Death

By Michael James Brindley

A young poor pitiful boy

He is in prison for his life of death

He was sitting there in his cell

Long, longest time

He looked out a shallowed window

He see, he saw

Full white moon himself

Pretty soon I’ll be up there

I will be going down inside the shivering cold

Into the single road

Oh dear, to walk that frozen golden road

His eyes full of single tears

The guards take him electricity chair

His life of death

It was really pain and suffering

It was heart pounding

It stopped

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An interviewer talks with Jeanne Calvit about starting Interact and with performers Kevin Kling and Mike Brindley.