Our 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