An unusual production will unfold in Inglewood...

An unusual production will unfold in Inglewood today with professional actors taking their places on stage alongside stroke and head-injury victims.

The play “I Can’t . . . I Can! Opening the Mind So the Heart Can See” will begin at 2 p.m. today at St. Mary’s Academy, 701 Grace Ave.

What makes this play stand out from standard weekend Los Angeles dramatic fare is that eight of its 19 cast members are recovering from strokes or head injuries. They are involved in the Personal Theatre program at Inglewood’s Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital, which works to improve the communication skills of patients.

Those patients may have problems speaking, expressing themselves or comprehending what is said to them, explained Bette Hadler, a hospital speech and language pathologist. Some may have difficulty remembering or organizing their thoughts.


So the theater becomes another kind of therapy.

“This is a way for them to utilize their skills in a way that simulates real life,” said Hadler, who helped write the play along with director Sondra Bennett and the cast.

The play’s professional actors have memorized lines, but many of the patient-actors will improvise, organizers said. For both groups, the format is a challenge.

Producing a play can build up patients’ self-confidence and prepare them for real-life business and social situations. And professional actors accustomed to scripted plays must adjust to more flexible context created by the patient-actors’ improvisations, said Bennett, who directs the Personal Theatre technique.


For the professionals, Bennett said, this approach has stretched their imaginations and allowed them “to move with what is rather than having everything so set.”

The two-act play runs about 90 minutes. Tickets are available at the door for $15; proceeds will provide scholarships for patients to attend Personal Theatre workshops at the hospital.