Theatre and Disability

“Reasons To Be Graeae:” A Foreword From Mat Fraser

Mat Fraser is an English rock musician, actor, writer, and performance artist who performed with Graeae’s Reasons To Be Cheerful at the 2012 London Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony. Ahead of this month’s release of Reasons To Be Graeae: A Work In Progress, Mat shares the story of how the UK’s flagship disabled-led Theatre Company changed the course of his career. My mum invited me to a play called Ubu at the Ovalhouse Theatre, South London in 1994, by a disabled theatre company called Graeae. I had “come out” as a disabled person in 1992 at thirty years old; I yearned to do something aligned with my disability politics and love of...

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Compelling Performance And Complex Metaphor In “King Arthur’s Night” Make For Remarkable Theatre (PuSh Festival)

Vancouver, British Columbia Jocelyn Pitsch reviews King Arthur’s Night, Neworld Theatre’s retelling of the Arthurian legend. With a neurodiverse cast and an emphasis on text and metaphor deconstruction, King Arthur’s Night is a compelling, comedic, and critical take on cultural myths and dynamics of power.  The legend of King Arthur and his court is usually told with a focus on its tragic and dramatic elements. From its opening moments, King Arthur’s Night announces that it will be different. Neworld Theatre’s telling is a lyrical and comedic feast with a spectacularly uplifting sonic landscape by Veda Hille. Hille’s score carries the narrative through its occasional lags to produce...

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Towards Cultural Access And Participation In Portugal

You can also read this article in French. IETM will host its forthcoming Plenary meeting in Porto, Portugal, with a specific focus on Other Centers: new and alternative perspectives and paths in the processes of producing and disseminating the arts. This series reveals how the Portuguese arts sector relates to the topic. In Portugal, like in many other countries, the general understanding of what cultural participation is—and, consequently, the barriers to it—is limited to the act of visiting or attending. Interest and participation in culture is mainly measured by attendance numbers at museums, monuments, theatres, concerts, and libraries. According to the European Commission’s...

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Dramatic Soundscapes

Rather than experimental theatre, it is the realm of dance works that is considered to be much more amenable to music and its ability to guide or transform a live performance. It is as if the body can only respond to the suggestible registers fed to it by soaring melodies or beats. Yet, recent excursions in contemporary dance have attempted to entirely dispense with sound altogether. Sounds of silence Instead, a vast unstarched expanse of silence becomes the ether in which the performers must discover their corporeal alter egos. In Avantika Bahl’s Say, What?, she interacts through gestures with deaf performer...

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Inclusivity: Welcoming Autistic Folk Into The Theater

I work for the National Autistic Society as their Autism Access Specialist. While this may seem like a mouthful, what I do is actually very simple. I have the privilege of working with theatres and live performance venues across the UK to support them in holding autism-friendly performances of their shows. I’ve had the honor of working with some of the West End’s best-loved productions, as well as regional shows with smaller audiences but just as much creative strength. It may surprise you that I would describe this as a “simple” task–indeed, it surprises most of the theatres I work...

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Disability And The Arts To Be Discussed Within D-CAF

In line with the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival’s (D-CAF) commitment to addressing the topic of disability and the arts, a discussion session will be held The GrEEK Campus on Saturday, March, 24. The speakers will include Carole McFadden (British Council, UK), Chris Ricketts (Candoco Dance Company, Egypt), Mennatallah Azmi (Dancer, Egypt), and Paul Hector (UNESCO, Egypt). The moderator of the sessions will be Cathy Costain (British Council, Egypt). The panelists will discuss “in concrete terms the current state of differently-abled artists in the region,” clarifies the D-CAF’s promotional material. It continues, “The panelists will discuss an array of topics,...

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Why I Can’t Accept “Amy And The Orphans”

What do you do with a disabled child you can’t emotionally support? While not the biggest question that Amy And The Orphans, by Lindsey Ferrentino, asks, it is certainly one of the more important ones. The short answer is: “put her in a state-run institution.” “Her” being Amy (Jamie Brewer), a woman with Down syndrome, the daughter of a young couple with two other children and a crumbling marriage. While it might be “refreshing” to talk about disability during the first five minutes of a play, one of the only things to come out of doing so is the...

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When It’s Written On Your Face: Teatr 21 And The Paradox Of Invisibility

The discussions framing social theatre are all too often carried out in the language of public policy. Projects are promoted by their ability to produce outcomes such as “supporting self-esteem,” “healing socio-psychological wounds,” or “developing participatory community networks.” And while many applied theatre programs in places like prisons, schools, and refugee camps certainly benefit their participants in myriad ways, James Thompson and Richard Schechner warn in a “very special issue” of TDR that such paradigms can restrict the conversation surrounding these productions to their measurable therapeutic effects, discounting their artistic merits and putting them at imminent risk of death...

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Jess Thom On Touretteshero’s Production Of Beckett’s “Not I”: Mouth as a Disabled Character

Following excellent reviews from a run of Samuel Beckett’s Not I in Edinburgh last summer Touretteshero and Jess Thom are bringing the show to Battersea Arts Centre this March. Jess talks to DAO about her reasons for taking on Mouth–whose monologue is known within theatre as a marathon demanding a virtuoso performance. “There are plenty of examples of non-disabled actors “cripping-up” and pretending to have lived experience of disability. I believe this is almost always damaging and runs the risk of reinforcing negative stereotypes and assumptions about what having an impairment means. So we chose to go in the opposite...

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“Amy And The Orphans”: Down Syndrome Psychodrama?

Lindsey Ferrentino has done a marvelous thing in conceiving a substantial and nuanced lead character with Down syndrome in her new play Amy And The Orphans and insisting that the role be played by an actor with that disability. The performer she cast, moreover, Jamie Brewer, is terrific. Brewer is destroying hardened prejudices and professional barriers with her acute and subtle performance in Scott Ellis’s production at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre. All of that said, Amy And The Orphans is unfortunately not the play it needs to be to demolish such formidable walls for the better. In a program note, Ferrentino explains that...

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Warsaw’s Teatr 21 At POLIN: Passover Is A Celebration Of Freedom

Pesach or Passover is the most widely observed Jewish holiday and arguably the most joyful. Celebrated annually in the early spring, the eight-day feast commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in Egypt and their newfound freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. It was in this spirit that Warsaw’s Teatr 21 originally conceived their 2016 devised work Pesach to święto wolności (Passover Is A Celebration Of Freedom) in collaboration with POLIN The Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Open Museum project, an annual month-long program that makes information about Jewish heritage available to people with...

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What Is The Shape, Color, And Sound Of Pain?

Conceived and directed by Rachel Bagshaw and written by Chris Thorpe, The Shape of the Pain, produced by China Plate, was given four stars by The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner, who dubbed it “a kaleidoscopic exercise in empathy” during its run at Summerhall, Edinburgh last summer. The Shape of the Pain is a fictional monologue about Bagshaw’s very real chronic pain. Produced with sound design that presents integrated access with text that explores what amounts to an elegy to pain, Bagshaw explains how the piece came together: “Chris Thorpe and I have quite different backgrounds in the style of work we...

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Amit Sharma Of Graeae Theatre On Staging A Production With A Hundred Disabled Artists In Chennai

It’s an incredibly hot day for February, and as I look across the vast grounds of Lady Willingdon College that sits opposite Chennai’s Marina beach, my eyes glaze over. In the middle of the ground is a blue-and-white tent. Some 20 people, about half of them in wheelchairs, are gathered there. They are being taught dance movements by members of the U.K.-based Graeae Theatre that works almost exclusively with disabled artists and has staged large-scale productions, many to critical acclaim. On Saturday, the group will stage a massive production called Aruna and the Raging Sun that involves about a hundred...

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Examining “Tommy” Through a Neurodiverse Lens

Ramps on the Moon’s adaptation of Pete Townsend’s 1969 concept album ‘Tommy’, toured the UK between March and July 2017. With time to let the stardust settle, Jonathan Meth offers a provocation reflecting on the award-winning production. It is bordering on mealy-mouthed to question the politics as well as the aesthetics of “Ramps on the Moon’s” production of Tommy, when to see so much fantastic talent assembled onstage of acting, singing, dancing and yes, disabled performers were simply joyous – and itself a political statement of intent. But when will the fabulous advances in theatre made by artists with physical and...

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Sign Language “Three Sisters” To Hit The Silver Screen

A new vision of Three Sisters play will hit U.S. and UK cinemas. Theater company Stage Russia is known for its recorded performances which are shown in cinemas throughout the country. Successful screenings of the Vakhtangov Theater’s Eugene Onegin and the Moscow Art Theater’s The Cherry Orchard have drawn punters from far and wide–while this season’s premier is Three Sisters at Novosibirsk’s Red Torch Theater, but there’s a twist. A unique staging of the play–entirely in sign language with English subtitles–will be shown in cinemas in the U.S. and UK from March 1, 2018. (find the nearest to you here.) The powerful play is about a...

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The Focus Is On The Power Of Those On The Margins: 33 Performances, Representing 14 Countries

The 10th edition of ITFoK touches upon diverse themes such as gender, identity, displacement, and sexuality among other subjects. Those living on the margins are not always powerless. Neither are their lives empty. They often come up with powerful statements of their existence and their voices are strong and sharp. And they find expressions through all forms of creative expression, especially theatre. The 10th International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK), organized by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi (KSNA), brought to the theatre audience of Kerala a fine cross-section of the voices from the margins that seek their expression through the...

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Interview With Mickey Rowe: A Leader In Autism Representation On Stage

This fall, Mickey Rowe was the first autistic actor to play Christopher Boone, the autistic main character, in the Tony Award-winning play The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time at the Indiana Repertory Theater and Syracuse Stage. Here, he talks with The Theatre Times about his experiences after the show’s conclusion and what’s next for the play. What changed for you (or not) as an actor identifying as having an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) in terms of how directors and casting directors might now think of you? What have you either encountered past The Curious Incident Of The...

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“A Crash Course In Cloudspotting (The Subversive Act Of Horizontality)”: Bringing Awareness Through Art

What does it take to become a cloudspotter? It may sound a romantic idea, but is a term used by Raquel Meseguer for the thousands of people in the UK living with chronic pain from conditions that require individuals to rest, lying down at frequent intervals. Meseguer was a successful contemporary dancer, and the other half of dance theatre company Lost Dog, when a slipped disc left her with increasingly debilitating neurological symptoms in 2007. She began thinking about creating performances that explore chronic pain and interrogate the kickback she received for lying down in arts venues and other...

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Behind the Scenes of “Uncommon Sense”: An Interview with John Coyne From Tectonic Theater Company

Tectonic Theater Company’s latest production at the Sheen Center in New York, Uncommon Sense, follows Moose, Dan, Jess, and Lali–four individuals living on the autism spectrum. Moose’s parents struggle to keep him safe. Jess must navigate through college, while Dan begins a new relationship. Lali’s mother takes her to yet another speech therapist, always hopeful that someday, she will be able to communicate with her daughter. As we watch the character’s face day to day challenges, the set itself seems to come to life with mesmerizing movements and projections, often revealing the characters’ points of view. Uncommon Sense had...

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Theater KroogII Brings Artistic Enrichment And Inclusion To Moscow’s Aspiring Disabled Artists

Integrated Theatre Company KroogII is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing an enriching and creative experience for children and adults with mental disabilities. In the studio-style theater, they can perform in plays written by themselves and a director, participate in master classes, attend workshops where they can sharpen their skills in other areas of theatre, listen to lectures, and attend a summer camp. Their various seminars, training, and performances have earned them spots in festivals around Russia and various awards and nominations. Manager Evelina Selionchik gave The Theatre Times insight into exactly how Theater KroogII is transforming Moscow theatre into...

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