A Complex Day In Montreal

DSC01271Yesterday, we went to Montreal, a marvelous, if notoriously inaccessible, city for the day. We had planned to be in a workshop focused on using puppetry for working with businesses. Montreal is about two hours from here, so we were up early, aiming to leave by 6 o’clock. We finally made it out of the house about 6:30. The drive up was uneventful, and traffic in the city was delightfully negligible.

Usually we can find our way around Montreal with relative ease; yesterday, perhaps because we were already feeling a bit crunched for time, we were unable to find the workshop site. Even using a map, our destination proved illusive; we found ourselves driving around in circles, passing old haunts, and running into newly one-way streets and, this being the season, construction. Continue reading

Reblog: People love stories: An interview with Amit Sharma

Back  in December Gaele Sobott published an interview with Amit Sharma on her blog, Gaele Sobott:Writing, Culture, Social Justice and….

The post was entitled:

People love stories: An interview with Amit Sharma

The conversation is about a play he recently directed, The Solid Life of Sugar Water. The play centers on relationship, sexuality, and disability, hot topics for most of us. I hope you will visit Gaele’s blog and read the entire interview.

Sobott introduced the director thusly:

Amit Sharma has been the Associate Director of Graeae Theatre Company, London, since 2011. He recently directed The Solid Life of Sugar Water, a Graeae Theatre Company and Theatre Royal Plymouth production, gaining unanimous acclaim at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, leading to a 2016 UK tour including a run at the National Theatre…..

Here is a brief excerpt from the interview:

GS: The audience are looking down on the bed but they are also being spoken to directly by the characters. It is not possible for the audience to position themselves as just observers. They have to participate. What are your thoughts on this?

AS: That’s the good thing about theatre. You can set up a convention and then just totally break it. So whenever the characters were on the floor, that was like the wall of their bedroom but it became less about the bedroom, it was the post office, the bridge, even though the bed was always present. As a creative team we wanted it to be subtle, so yes the bed was always in the background because there was always that big question of them trying to have sex.

GS: There are many disabled artists and directors who feel there is a need to explore sex and disability, for various reasons including societal attitudes, the infantilisation of disabled people. What is the importance of sex in disabled art? What is the relation of this play to the exploration of sex and disability?

AS: The most interesting thing coming out of Sugar Water is that question has not been asked. It has not been unpacked. What the play does is almost normalise that very question of sex and disability. It is such a huge topic for so many different reasons. Perhaps it is because of the performers, one performer is Deaf and one performer has a physical impairment, but not to the extent where it impacts on their sex lives. What I mean by that is that if, say, one of the characters was a wheelchair user who had 24 hour personal care then that dynamic shifts. I was reading an article today about the Independent Living Fund and this guy saying how it can be difficult to live independently for example to go out and chat up girls because you’ve got someone else there all the time. So you have to negotiate that relationship. This play doesn’t go there. People have picked up on the element of communication between the couple, but the sex element not so. I also think it is because of how Jack as a writer was playing with the idea of sex. There’s a lot of comedy with some really graphic descriptions.

GS: Well yes there is comedy and there are very serious moments, a fine line.

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Reblog: Cripping the Mighty

This morning I received the following blog post from Bad Cripple. The Internet has many disability sites, and many of those sites are routinely contested by disability activists. Such sites tend toward one of two persuasions: they represent disability as a calamity, or they are filled with feel good stories that mask the real challenges inherent in being disabled. Both approaches are engaged in the task of acquiring readers and making money. In part because the writing posted to these sites uses disabled bodies for commerce, it has acquired the label, “disability porn”:
I have on occasion read posts at The Mighty. Recently, an editor at the Mighty contacted me and I allowed the website to post a short version of what I had written about Donald Trump here at Bad Cripple. A link to the original post: http://badcripple.blogspot.com/2015/11/donald-trump-disability-mocking-at-its.html I had serious misgivings posting an edited version of what I had written on the Mighty. I have long believed the vast majority of posts at the Mighty were dreadful. The site itself has always been a mystery to me. They are a well-funded start up with over a dozen paid employees. They do not pay contributors. The site struck me as obsessed with numbers. They claim to have 80 million readers. The tag line is “Real people. Real stories. We face disability, disease, and metal illness together”. In reality the Mighty draws on two different audiences: first, it is a site for parents of children with disabilities and complex medical needs to vent their frustrations and seek support. Second, it relies heavily on inspiration porn to draw readers who know nothing about disability. A third readership exists. A small minority of people with a disability in an effort of good will try to express the importance of disability rights. In my opinion, this minimal nod to disability rights exists for one reason–it negates a disability rights critique of the Mighty. The bottom line is the Mighty reinforces well-worn negative tropes, cliches, and stereotypes about disability. Suffice it to say I am not at all impressed.
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Tom Brady and the Politics of Hatred

Early-FoliageI imagine I became fond of watching and listening to sports in part, because I am an American male, and in part because I had Polio and could not really play them. Radio and television allowed me to imagine I was an athlete, to participate in some small, crucial way in the lives of able men. Anyway, I remember imagining that I, too, could be a heroic athlete, that somehow my Polio body could be transcended.

This afternoon I watched a few minutes of the Patriots game. When I tuned in, a Bills’ player was being immobilized, having experienced a serious neck injury. The Patriots had achieved an enormous lead and the injury seemed both heartbreaking and senseless.

Over the past few years it has become evident that American professional football (as opposed to soccer), in spite of its phenomenal popularity, is hugely problematic. Life changing physical injuries, head traumas, and incidents of domestic violence are much too common. Indeed, the sport seems to require and condone violence, sacrificing players and their loved ones on a regular basis.

I have followed the Patriots for many years and, over time, have come to greatly appreciate Tom Brady, who is unquestionably a hall of fame quarterback. This week, however, Brady appeared to come out put in support of his friend, Donald Trump’s, bit for the Presidency of the United States.  This in spite of Trump’s overt racism, misogyny, and hatred of religious and ethnic minorities, and those with disabilities or non-dominant sexual orientations. Trump has also demonstrated a long-standing dislike for Native America, and this week he reputedly agreed with a debate questioner that a Muslim should not be President, and said he would consider ways to rid the country of Muslims.

I have been trying to understand why Brady would publicly support someone who spews hatred towards the people he depends on for his life and career. After all, he is married to a woman, has Afro-American, Asian, and Hispanic teammates (some probably Muslim) who PROTECT him on and off the field, and works in Boston, an ethnically rich and diverse community. He clearly is entitled to his opinions. Yet, why would he publicly say suggest he agrees with Trump’s views? I am left wondering, “What is he thinking?” Perhaps he is as arrogant as many in the media seem to believe.

I’m offended, after all, I’m Native and disabled. I hope you are offended as well.

IPTN: Disability and Artistry

PlaybackOur workshop at the International Playback Theatre Network conference in Montreal provided an opportunity for directors, and individual performers, to think with us about disability, inclusion, and aesthetics. The time allotted to the workshop passed much too quickly as we engaged in a deep conversation about these difficult topics.

One  of the most challenging aspects of any conversation about theater and disability is making the distinction between theater for, theater by, theater to, and theater with. Still other categories have been suggested, perhaps in an effort to thicken our understanding of this thorny topic.

These distinctions have evolved to address the difference between theater practices that nominally include persons with disabilities, those provide programing to persons labeled as disabled, and those that seek to be truly inclusive. The latter may originate in group or individual work by disabled persons, or by ensembles of “mixed abilities,” in which the presence of disability is acknowledged, but normalized, resulting in an aesthetic that explores the differently abled body-mind as a vehicle for storytelling in myriad ways. Continue reading

Kaite O’Reilly Writes Disability

Winter_EveningHere is a profound piece of writing from Kaite O’Reilly. In a blog post entitled, Answering back and returning the gaze: Alternative Dramaturgies, she speaks of her work playwrighting disability:

How do we ‘write’ disability? Is it in the aesthetic, the narratives, the content, the form, or the bodies of the performers? This paper seeks to introduce ‘alternative dramaturgies, informed by a Deaf and disability perspective’, exploring some of the dramaturgical developments I have initiated as a playwright working within disability arts and Deaf culture since 1987. Alternative? To the mainstream, hearing, non-disabled perspective, and by ‘alternative dramaturgies’ I mean the processes, structures, content and form which reinvent, subvert or critique ‘traditional’ or ’conventional’ representations, narratives, and dramatic structures in performance


New-scooterAbout three weeks ago my new scooter came. This marks yet another transition. Like most Polio’s, I gather, I was reluctant to begin using a scooter. Finally, after several years of coaxing from the Polio Clinic, I took the proverbial plunge. Continue reading

Repost: New Paddle Design Opens Kayaking to Seniors and People with Disabilities

Here’s an intriguing post!
New Paddle Design Opens Kayaking to Seniors and People with Disabilities
Author: Angle Oar
Published: May 18, 2014 (Revised: May 18, 2014)
Author Contact Information: www.angleoar.com
Abstract: The paddle will open up kayaking to people with disabilities, senior citizens, amputees, anglers, children and novice kayakers who want to enjoy the sport without the physical exertion it normally entails.

“The Angle Oar, which has design elements of both a paddle and an oar, rests upon a centrally mounted post that sits on the floor of the kayak and absorbs the weight of the paddle.”

Detail: Until now, in order to kayak, a person had to have two fully functioning arms, strong back and core muscles, an absence of shoulder injuries, and cardiovascular endurance. Those preconditions have now been eliminated thanks to the introduction of a new “weightless” kayak paddle, called the Angle Oar.

Angle Oar, LLC, based in San Luis Obispo, CA, will soon begin offering a newly patented kayak paddle to marketplace. The paddle will open up kayaking to millions of new enthusiasts of varying ages and abilities, including people with physical disabilities, senior citizens, one arm amputees, kayak anglers, children and novice kayakers who want to enjoy the sport without the physical exertion it normally entails. “The Angle Oar is not intended to replace, improve upon or mimic a traditional kayak paddle. The stroke patterns and maneuverability are very different. Instead, it gives people who would never have been able to kayak, due to strength limitations or health conditions, the opportunity to do so,” said Meg McCall, president of Angle Oar.

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Guest Blogger: Naomi Baltuck

I am honored to introduce our guest blogger, Naomi Baltuck. She is a world-traveler and an award-winning writer, photographer, and a marvelous story-teller whose works of fiction and nonfiction are available through Amazon HERE. Naomi presents her wonderful photo-stories – always interesting and rich with meaning and humor – at Writing Between the Lines, Life from the Writer’s POV. She also conducts workshops such as Peace Porridge (multicultural stories to promote cooperation, goodwill, and peaceful coexistence), Whispers in the Graveyard (a spellbinding array of haunting and mysterious stories), Tandem Tales, Traveling Light Around the World, and others. For more on her programs visit Naomi Baltuck.com.


A Gift to be Shared…
by Naomi Baltuck, © 2002

For every story that a storyteller gives voice to, be it folktale, literary, or historical, there is an untold story running just beneath the surface.
My mother, Aunt Loena, and Grandma Rhea would sit at the kitchen table and drink coffee, telling stories of our family hardships, courtships, scandals, jokes, and joys. They were passing down our history. Their stories were chosen carefully, I realize now, to impart values, wisdom, and warnings. Of a cousin who never married because of her dictatorial mother, my own mother began, “You can get too tangled up in an apron string…” Mom concluded another story, “You’ll find you have something in common with everyone you meet, even if it’s only that your feet hurt.” Continue reading