MR. MEE, DRESSED IN A BAGGY NAVY sweater and sand-colored khakis, crosses his thin legs in pretzel-like arrangements on his chair. He was diagnosed with polio, a highly infectious viral disease that attacks the nervous system, before Jonas Salk invented a vaccination.
“It had never occurred to me that anything bad might happen to me,” Mr. Mee wrote in his 1999 memoir, A Nearly Normal Life. “I was fourteen years old that summer of 1953, with buck teeth, a crew cut, a love of swimming, football, and comic books. I had a dog named Pat. I was a Boy Scout. I liked girls.”
After catching the disease, he spent nearly three months in the hospital, unable to move anything for 15 days besides his eyelids and three fingers on his left hand. He lost weight, from 160 pounds to 90. He emerged only able to walk with double aluminum canes, which he still uses today. They’re bright red, and they assist him while he carries himself to museums and plays, and back and forth from his desk and the kitchen.
“I’m not only allowed to speak about disability, or disability rights or how hard it is to get up a staircase,” Mr. Mee said in his backyard. “But I’m also permitted to talk about loving my wife and being heartbroken about my children being gone and having an opinion on the war in Iraq.”
On his Web site, Mr. Mee wrote that people of any race or any ability can act in his plays: “I want my plays to be the way my own life is: race and disability exist. They are not denied. And, for example, white parents do not have biological black children. But issues of race and disability do not always consume the lives of people of color or people in wheelchairs. In my plays, as in life itself, the female romantic lead can be played by a woman in a wheel chair. The male romantic lead can be played by an Indian man. And that is not the subject of the play.”
“I write to do stuff that I love, and I think since I’m not from Mars, actually, maybe two or three other people will like it too,” Mr. Mee said, before leaving with his wife, stage actress Michi Barall, to see John Doyle’s Tony Award–winning production of Company at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. “I’m only ever trying to please myself, because I don’t really know what other people like, but I’m the world’s leading expert in what I like, so I can’t be wrong.”