Last seen on a Halifax stage in the critically acclaimed Cinderella, in his latest outing for Neptune Theatre, Andrew Prashad takes audiences on a very personal journey in his one-person show One Step at a Time: A Father’s Journey. It is one of several on-demand digital offerings as part of the Halifax theatre company’s Neptune at Home program.
In One Step at a Time, Prashad tells how he has balanced a career as a performer while he and his family care for their son Ezra who was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
“It begins when my wife is pregnant, and we get the diagnosis,” explains Prashad. “From there, the journey takes us to a few years into his life, and how my wife and I dealt with it while still trying to raise our two daughters and me trying to jumpstart my career in the industry.”
But don’t let its subject matter scare you, as Prashad has woven humour throughout the play, learning early on that laughter was a necessity for him and his family cope.
“I didn’t want the show to be about how hard it was going to be,” he says. “It is heavy, but we learned that we have to find the positive and humour in things. It’s too much for us to carry without that.”
Telling his story the best way he can, Prashad uses a combination of monologues, original songs and improvised tap. “When the words aren’t enough, we shift into song, and when the song isn’t enough, we shift into dance,” he says.
All emotionally connected, One Step at a Time also uses multimedia to frame the story and put it into context to provide a stronger connection for audiences.
Created in 2017, Prashad says that One Step at a Time continues to breathe and evolve like most shows.
“Every time we put it up, we adapt it and change it. It grows as I grow as an artist, and as my director, Scott Hurst, sees different things,” he says. “But the core remains the same.”
Prashad explains that much of the differences between performances come from the dance elements in the show.
“I love the raw emotional expression through tap,” says Prashad. “The storytelling is not always the same because the tap dancing is improvisational, so that is never going to be the same twice.”
For Neptune at Home, Prashad will perform a version recorded at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille last month. It may not have the inherent immediacy he describes of his live performances but it is a performance he is particularly excited for audiences to see.
For this version, he used a combination of choreography and improvision, setting guideposts at the beginning and end of each dance segment.
“I like the balance that I found,” he says. “I leave a whole bunch of room between small choreographed moments to improvise and live in that moment and then ground myself in the next bit of choreography. It gave me a little more structure within the show, but I still get to explore things.”
Of course, no conversation about One Step at a Time would be complete without talking about the now five-year-old Ezra, who is central to the work.
“He’s doing amazingly well,” says Prashad. “He wasn’t supposed to function below the waist, but after hours and hours of physio and occupational and speech therapy, he’s just soaring.”
Already going short distances without the aid of his walker, the latest acquisition is a new wheelchair.
“So we’re practicing with that, and it will give him independence once he gets good at wheeling himself and building that strength,” says Prashad. “I’m excited for all those things.”
He is also excited that Ezra has begun joining him and his two tap-dancing sisters in the family’s garage studio after creating custom tap shoes built from one of his daughter’s old tap shoes.
“So sometimes he will have the canes he uses, and he will dance with us,” says Prashad. “He can’t do much, but he can hold his canes and make noise with his feet, and that is already more than I thought he would ever be able to do. I’m trying to encourage and help him figure out how to adapt the art form to his legs.”
And unlike his two siblings, Ezra still hasn’t seen the show he features so prominently. Now that it exists on film, Prashad thinks maybe it is time.
“All of the kids know the music in the show because they hear me rehearsing, but Ezra hasn’t sat down and watched it yet,” he says. “I’m very curious to see what his reaction is.”
One thing is for sure, though, after spending just a few minutes on the phone with Prashad, it is apparent audiences are in for a beautiful story told with love. And who couldn’t use that kind of uplifting story right now?
Andrew Prashad’s One Step at a Time: A Father’s Journey is currently available as part of Neptune Theatre’s Neptune at Home program until October 21. It can be purchased as part of an annual digital subscription or for individual rental. Visit neptuneathome.com for more information.