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Blind stage manager finds acceptance in theater community

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Posted at 5:22 AM, Oct 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 08:42:09-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Audience members won't see Rebekah Grieb on stage during performances of "The Full Monty," currently in production at the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center, but she's the one who keeps everything running smoothly behind the scenes.

She also happens to be legally blind.

When Grieb was 12 or 13, she started to lose her vision. Up until that point, the Olathe native had been an athlete, but it became more difficult as her vision declined.

That's when she switched to theater.

She started as an actor, but eventually, the stage lights became too intense because of the light sensitivity caused by her vision problems. Then, she discovered a love of directing and stage managing.

"I like to keep spreadsheets and lists and keep things organized, which the creative designers and such need that sometimes," she said. "So it's kind of a good way to get to use both sides of my brain, the creative aspect and the detail-oriented side."

Now, she's responsible for much of the organizational aspects of running a show, keeping things on track during casting and rehearsals. During performances, she's behind the scenes making sure set pieces are in place, actors know their cues and everything goes as planned.

Although Grieb is not fully blind, she does have night blindness, light sensitivity and central vision loss, meaning she can't see things when she looks at them head-on.

While that presents some challenges for her job, Grieb says the theater community has welcomed her with open arms.

"It's definitely a community and tends to be a very accepting and loving community," she said. "It was kind of a way to find my family outside of my family and people that were willing to accommodate my vision loss."

Doctors have never been able to give Grieb a specific diagnosis, although they believe it falls under the umbrella of macular degeneration. She is currently part of a research program at Iowa State University to try to find some answers.

Grieb's current show, "The Full Monty," is on stage through Oct. 17. Tickets are available on the Theatre in the Park website.