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Actress with Bilateral Limb Loss Takes Center Stage

Feb 7, 2024 |

Katy Sullivan is known in the performing arts world as the first female amputee to star on Broadway and now she is adding another first to her list of accomplishments. The Tony-nominated actress is also the first woman with a disability (congenital bilateral above-knee amputee) to play Shakespeare’s Richard III in a major U.S. production. Currently Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production is running from February 2 through March 3 with Katy in the lead role. Kris Vire wrote a piece for Chicago Magazine on the historic role. 

Richard III is known for plotting his way to the throne and in her performance, Katy has had to find a way to connect with the character. “I am someone who understands ambition,” she said. Aside from excelling as an actress, Katy also set a U.S. 100-meter record as a Paralympic track athlete in 2012. Running was a sport she got involved in by chance when she received a pair of running blades to try on. She didn’t start competing in races until her mid-twenties. 

Her success as an athlete also positively impacted other aspects of her life, including how she presented herself with a disability. “It helped me get to a deeper sense of appreciation for my body and what it’s capable of,” Katy told Chicago Magazine, noting that she stopped trying to conceal her prosthetic legs in auditions and on dates. “It helped me to just accept who I am. And thank God, because it’s changed so much of what I’ve been willing to explore as an actor and understanding using vulnerability to my advantage.” 

Katy’s husband, Scott Aiello, is a fellow actor and he ironically plays Richard’s brother. The newlyweds got married in July 2023 and relocated to Chicago. 

Given the added publicity of this play for its representation, Katy is hopeful that her presence will leave an impact on the audience. “I hope that people walk away with a different idea about what not only performers with disabilities, but also just human beings with disabilities are capable of and not underestimate people,” she said in the show’s behind-the-scenes video.  

Learn more and purchase tickets for Richard III here