Talented Actor and Physical Therapist Encourages Students to Follow Their Dreams

Abigail Sawyer, Co-Editor in Chief/Online Manager

This past Monday, February 10th, Rachel Handler visited aspiring actors in the Black Box to touch upon subjects such as perseverance, acting technique, and discrimination against actors with disabilities. She is a successful actress and has appeared as a supporting character in shows such as Law and Order, Goliath, and New Amsterdam. What makes Rachel Handler truly spectacular is her persistence. She lost part of her left leg as a young adult in a car accident, rendering her immobile for months. She eventually, through hard work and dedication, regained the ability to move independently and pursue her dream of acting on Broadway, and now shares her story with young aspiring actors and actresses.

     Aside from giving advice on how to nail an audition, and network with the right people, Handler shared her experience as someone with a disability. She explained the difficulty that many amputees face while learning how to drive again, styling flat shoes, and being taken seriously at auditions. “Disability is fluid,” says Handler, some days she is able to walk around with just the prosthetic, and others she needs to use her crutches. Her strategy is to take it day by day and do what she needs to do in order to be functional and comfortable regardless of the opinions of others. She later shares her observation of how people with disabilities are often portrayed in the media. 

     Handler observed two types of personalities that disabled characters tend to have, the wimp, and the veteran. Rachel Handler shared examples of the kinds of comments she gets regarding her prosthetic leg. They range from laughter to “Thank you for your service!” “Those comments are always the weirdest! I don’t know how to explain that I lost my leg in a car accident to a total stranger who thought I was a veteran, so now I just nod and smile.” Handler states, “being able to say no to things” is incredibly important. She, understandably, doesn’t want to play a disabled wimp anymore. “There is power in saying ‘no’ and doing what you want to do,” says Rachel Handler.

If Handler could offer three pieces of advice for anyone looking to go into theater as a career, they would be to stay passionate, keep singing, and do what makes you happy.