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This Bay Area artist has ALS and can’t speak — but she’s still directing her dream project

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A year ago, Erin Merritt stopped being able to sing in tune during her car karaoke. Then the El Cerrito director, who has been working in Bay Area theater for decades, noticed her voice lost its resonance while she was teaching a California Shakespeare Theater class. At first she thought she had a sinus problem. 

“Then I couldn’t make certain sounds, like hard G,” she said. 

Soon her speech started slurring. “Not ideal to sound drunk when teaching kids,” she joked; she worried she might jeopardize her own or Cal Shakes’ reputation. 

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