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UNC student theatre organization offers an inclusive performance platform for all

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Carter Plays for POTS is a new UNC organization dedicated to providing theatrical opportunities to students with non-visible disabilities. Photo courtesy Aeris Carter. 

When trying out for the 2019 UNC production of "Romeo and Juliet," Aeris Carter fell to the ground and had to give up her chance at being a part of the cast. 

Carter suffers from a little-known disease, and she fell because she didn't have enough blood circulating to her brain. 

Standing, bending over and lifting one’s arms are some of the strenuous activities that may cause fainting and loss of consciousness for those with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, better known as POTS. 

For Carter, this disease affects her daily routine and her love of performing as a dramatic art major at UNC. 

“I realized I would have to decline the role for my health, and I thought that people, not just with invisible disabilities, but any kind of disability are going to be excluded from the rich extracurricular environments that universities pride themselves on if they can’t participate in things that are based on physical activity,” Carter said. 

In March 2019, Carter founded Carter Plays for POTS — a nonprofit organization aimed at providing people with  disabilities the chance to be involved in the dramatic arts. All performances are dialogue-based only, taking out any movement on stage to make the show more inclusive for all people.

Now president and director of the organization, Carter said she anticipates the first production will be "The Crucible" this November. 

Carter said she hopes the organization will act as a launch pad for better self-expression for those with disabilities. She said she wants to give the UNC community an opportunity to better understand diseases like POTS, and to extend the accessibility of the arts. 

Carter said one of the struggles of dealing with POTS comes from the lack of understanding of POTS that leaves others questioning her disability. 

“The main thing I deal with every day is debilitating fatigue,” Carter said. “It is so hard to get out of bed in the morning because not only do I not have enough energy, but there is also a chance I will faint just getting out of bed.” 

Dr. Thevy Chai, a physician with UNC Campus Health, said POTS ranges in severity and can cause dizziness, nausea, cramping and blurred vision among other effects. Treatments can include eating a high salt diet or prescribed medications. 

Carter said she is grateful to be able to walk and perform her daily routines, and she wants to help improve the quality of life for others who feel the effects of POTS. 

“I want to provide a safe space for people to pursue their interests and have things to look forward to every day because that is what theater had been for me prior to coming to UNC,” Carter said. 

Carter Plays for POTS will be donating a portion of proceeds from shows to Standing Up to POTS, a separate nonprofit aimed at improving the quality of life for POTS patients. Some proceeds will also be given to the Paws4people foundation to raise and train service dogs. 

There are approximately 20 people involved with Carter Plays for POTS, including volunteers from Meredith College and North Carolina State University. Carter and fellow board members look forward to exponential growth this year. 

The next performance of Carter Plays for POTS after "The Crucible" will be "Ollantay," a Spanish performance created to better represent Native American history. The final performance of the year will highlight 19th century feminism with "Jane Eyre." 

Carter created a website for Carter Plays for POTS, which she said will go online this week. 

UNC student Taylor Heeden is a member of the president's cabinet for Carter Plays for POTS, and she said she is grateful to be a part of the dramatic arts while dealing with general anxiety. 

“POTS may be rare, but it is more common than people think,” Heeden said. "It is not just about POTS, it is about all invisible disabilities. We are trying to spread a message of inclusivity that people on campus and around the world should hear.”

@Ava_Eucker

arts@dailytarheel.com

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