Theatre and Disability

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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“Nie Mów Nikomu” (Do Not Tell Anyone) – Performing Sign Language

“Freedom, Equality, Theatre” The motto of Scena Robocza (Working Scene) is, “Freedom, Equality, Theatre,” and these elements are on full display in the company’s piece Nie Mów Nikomu (Do Not Tell Anyone). A multimedia performance piece, Nie Mów Nikomu is built around the true-life stories of five deaf people in Poland. The performance is simultaneously a beautiful piece of live art and an educational piece of activism about disability. Nie Mów Nikomu provides a space on the Polish stage for the subject of deaf life, but it does not do so with pity or exoticization. Instead, it portrays its...

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The Journey Ahead, Accessible Theatre

As we’re coming towards the New Year, I’ve been reflecting on 2017. I’ve recently been a resident director at Salisbury Playhouse as part of the Regional Theatre Young Director’s Scheme three month placement. The scheme offers emerging directors from under-represented backgrounds a paid opportunity to work full time in a regional theatre. During my placement I had a range of brilliant experiences; directing, assistant directing, facilitating workshops and youth theatre, working with the amazing Take Part department, script reading, R&D, and much more. I’m also lucky enough to have the Playhouse’s brilliant associate director Jo Newman as a mentor....

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Special Needs Whirling Dervishes Tell Their Stories With Theatre Play

The whirling dervishes group, “Umudun Kanatları” (“Wings of Hope”), consisting of autistic, physically and mentally impaired people and people with Down syndrome, is getting ready to take the stage with a play during the Şeb-i Arus (The Night of Union) ceremonies. Ülkü Bayram, the trainer of the team formed by the Sincan Municipality Directorate of Cultural and Social Affairs in the Ankara province, spoke to Anadolu Agency (AA) and provided information about their play in line with the commemorative ceremonies for the 744th anniversary of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi’s death. Bayram said he was very impressed when he saw the...

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The Unlimited House Of Krip: Vogue Ball With D/deaf And Disabled Performers

Disability theatre company, Fittings Multimedia, headed by Garry Robson got an Unlimited commission (administered by Shape and Artsadmin) to take the first-ever contingent of D/deaf and disabled performers, the Unlimited House Of Krip to the North West’s vibrant Vogue Ball scene. Joe Turnbull spoke to Robson and Darren Suarez, organizer of the House of Suarez Vogue Balls, ahead of Unlimited House Of Krip’s debut on October 21 at the Wind Factory in Liverpool. “It was through my producer Adrian Turrell-Watts that I found out about House of Suarez’s Vogue Ball. He was raving about it and saying I had...

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Play Written By And For Cancer Patients Tours Shanghai, Beijing

Director of Don’t Be Afraid, Cancer Companions hopes drama project will give survivors confidence and community. China’s first play written, directed, and performed by cancer survivors has wrapped up its two-week tour of Shanghai and is set to premiere in Beijing next month. Don’t Be Afraid, Cancer Companions tells the story of a cancer treatment center that employs drama therapy to raise patients’ morale and give them the hope and confidence needed to face each day. The protagonist, Anhong, is a woman with lung cancer—as is the play’s director, Dai Rong. “Unexpectedly, I found out in February 2012 that I had lung...

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At The Intersection Of Disabled And Working Class, An Interview With Jackie Hagan

Jackie Hagan: In Skem (Skelmersdale) there’s no class system, just people with slightly nicer shoes Gemma Nash speaks to the poet, comedian, and theatremaker Jackie Hagan about her dual identities as disabled and working class lass, and her career thus far as she prepares to debut her latest piece of theatre This Is Not A Safe Space. From local poetry nights to international literary festivals, Hagan has always had a passion for making sure working-class identity is celebrated both on the page and in the theatre. Reclaiming Poetry … Hagan went to Manchester University in 1999 where she studied...

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