When Abad Viquez was born, doctors told his parents that he had less than six months to live and wasn’t going to be able to walk, talk or hear in his short lifespan.
“But by the age of 3, I was able to do the things they said I wouldn’t be able to do and then some,” says the now 17-year-old Senn High School senior and budding theater actor who, this year, placed first in the Chicago qualifying rounds of the August Wilson Monologue Competition and won third place in the national championship in New York City.
Viquez was born with a rare condition called Sacral agenesis (the absence of a tailbone), which can lead to suspended growth and issues with mobility. To date he’s had 22 surgeries to try to correct some of the effects of the condition. Because of his disability, Viquez says he was bullied relentlessly in middle school. Looking for a way to boost his confidence, his mother enrolled him into a program called Tellin’ Tales Theatre, which has a mission to “shatter barriers between the disabled and non-disabled worlds through the transformative power of personal story.”
“I worked with a mentor who was also in a wheelchair, and he taught me what I can do to perform on stage. He inspired me to keep going and perform,” says Viquez, who also credits his Senn theater teacher Joel Ewing, and Victory Gardens Arts Education director Robert Cornelius (Senn’s annual visiting instructor) for helping pave the way for his achievements. Viquez adds that he hopes to pay that fellowship forward. “I want to try to inspire other people. I’ve been through a lot, and so I try to remind them that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it.”
Viquez has played the role of everyone from Wilson’s garish, woman-loving Lymon to noted painter Frida Kahlo, and, his personal favorite, a superhero he created called Face Puncher. “I love comics and superheroes and I was so excited when I got to make my own,” says Viquez. “Face Puncher has super strength and he’s able to do anything.”
That superhero power is akin to what Viquez feels when he’s on stage.
“When I’m on stage I feel free,” he says. “I feel open and not worried about anything that people might say. Of course I was nervous at first of what people would think, but being in Tellin’ Tales where I wasn’t the only one on stage who was different, it made it feel more comfortable.”
Viquez hopes to continue acting as he graduates high school and begins college, and also find time to partake in his other hobbies like playing basketball and making beats for music tracks.
“Theater is my strength. I know so much about it, and the history behind it thanks to Mr. Ewing,” he says. “But I want to be able to expand my knowledge and learn different things, too.” He’s also considering majoring in music production to become an audio engineer and plans to learn more about film so maybe one day he can produce and direct the next Hollywood blockbuster.
This summer, Viquez also learned the skills of graphic design. “I got to make my own logo and now have my own merchandise,” he says. A variety of T-shirts, hoodies and other accessories with the slogan “Your Disability Doesn’t Define You” are available for purchase at https://yourdisabilitydoesntdefineyou22.threadless.com/. With the money that is raised, Viquez donates it to a charity close to his heart, called Free Wheelchair Mission, which provides wheelchairs to those who need it but can’t afford one.
“I really hope my story motivates people to keep on going with their dreams and work hard,” says Viquez. “Hopefully in the future my knowledge with monologues can help me be a motivational speaker, too.”
This profile is part of a series made possible by Allstate as part of its commitment to support young artists in Chicago and to empower the next generation of rising stars.