ZACK GOTTSAGEN (Zak) made his film debut as the star of a
natural childbirth instructional
film on April 22, 1985, and has been an enthusiastic performer since his first
role as a frog at age three. He
attended Bak Middle School of the Arts, and graduated from Dreyfoos School of
the Arts as a theater major
Gottsagen was the first child with Down syndrome to be fully included in the
Palm Beach County
school district. After the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
he filed one of the first ADA
suits, which successfully challenged Little League to include children with
disabilities, resulting in all coaches
being required to receive training in inclusion.
An actor and a dancer, Gottsagen performed with Southern Dance Theatre for 13
years and assisted
teaching there. He also helped teach theater to children at Standing Ovation
Performing Arts and worked in
an inclusive child-care center.
Gottsagen performed a monologue from "Hamlet" while standing on top of a tall
ladder at the Black
Box Theater at Dreyfoos in 2003. He auditioned for and was chosen to star in the
live theater production of
"Artie" at the Royal Palm Playhouse in 2005. He has been involved with Zeno
Mountain Farm nonprofit film
productions from 2008 until the present, performing in multiple independent
movies with Zeno, including
Burning Like a Fire and Life of a Dollar Bill.
During the shooting of the Zeno Mountain Farm short film Bulletproof, a
documentary was made
entitled "Becoming Bulletproof" (2014), which went behind the scenes to follow
Gottsagen and other actors
with different disabilities through their daily lives. "Becoming Bulletproof"
was featured on Showtime for
several months, received numerous film festival awards, and has a 100 percent
rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In
July 2015, the Smithsonian Museum invited Gottsagen to be the keynote speaker
for the 25th anniversary of
the Americans with Disabilities Act and showed the movie "Becoming Bulletproof."
Gottsagen is a leader in SAIL (Self-Advocates & Independent Living) through
the Gold Coast Down
Syndrome Organization and is actively involved with Very Special Arts. He has
advocated for the rights of
people with disabilities in local, state and national arenas. He won the Global
Down Syndrome Foundation's
Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award in 2018 for his work in the Down
syndrome community and was
awarded at their Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show.
Gottsagen lives independently in an apartment in Boynton Beach, Florida, and
has worked at the
Alco Theatres for several years. He loves swimming, working out, basketball,
kayaking, windsurfing, bowling
and watching wrestling.