Category Archives: on writing

Thoughts on “Dustless Action” by Tony Brown.

Yesterday I posted a blog about poet and life-long t’ai chi practitioner Li-Young Lee, who spoke about “Dustless action”. Having received a few (often puzzled) emails from readers on this phrase, I sought further perspectives from my friend Tony Brown, a writer, artist, musical director and t’ai chi practitioner/instructor. With his permission, I reproduce his thoughts, below:

Dustless action: thoughts:

Well, organisations that offer ‘dustless’ services mean that no trace of them remains after the fact. They come, they do their thing, they disappear without trace, and without fuss.
In t’ai chi, there’s a slightly fanciful thought that you can perform the actions of the Art on a sheet of rice paper without tearing it. Without trace. Without fuss.
In the fighting styles, the same applies. The actions are responsive to need and almost clinical. If actions initiate rather than respond, they create an unnecessary state of affairs that wasn’t there before – a cloud of dust. Fuss just makes everything complicated, so simplicity is the dustless solution.
In the internal aspects of t’ai chi, one aims for smooth connection between the mind, body and breath (mind, body, spirit if you will) in order to produce smooth uninterrupted qi. As soon as the link becomes unbalanced or disconnected, well you’ll have to get the dust buster out.
Why we like dusty actions rather than the opposite:
Creating clouds of dust in our everyday actions is sort of fun. Lots of noise, lots of gesticulation, gossip, changing direction, being wasteful with words and deeds and half-baked ideas. And it can of course be very creative. Out of dustclouds of chaos creative ideas arise.
Dustless action can seem lacking in vigour and unproductive. It’s all seems a bit Zen, too Taoist, too much like meditation and mindfulness to be of much use in everyday transactions.
So balance.
Dust is what remains after a half completed task.
Dust has to be cleared away or thing will get clogged up.
But you can write in it with your finger when the dust has settled.
Tony Brown. Dec 11th 2017

A Dynamism of Opposites: An hour with Li-Young Lee. Singapore Writer’s Festival 2017

 

Li-Young Lee at Singapore Writer’s Festival 2017. Photo: Kaite O’Reilly

 

 

Li-Young Lee is discombobulating.

“So what are we here for?” he asks in the opening moments of a masterclass at the Singapore Writers Festival in November 2017. “It isn’t a class or anything, is it?” Thirty heads nod in unison. “But I haven’t prepared anything,” he says, with disorientating frankness. “What’s it on?” From the front row I feed him the title: ‘”Creating the Poetic Mind.” He reflects, nodding. “Good title, but I didn’t write it. Perhaps whoever wrote the title should come and do the class, not me.”

I’m torn between irritation at this apparent disorganisation and disregard of the good souls paying good money to have an insight into ‘the poetic mind’ and a growing suspicion that that’s exactly what’s about to be revealed. “The guy’s either a jerk or a genius” an American voice whispers in the row behind me. My mind is circling on ‘maverick’.

After a few queries from the floor Li-Young Lee is beginning to warm up. He talks about the length of time required to create a poem, quoting one which took eight years from conception to completion. Suspicious of work that comes too easily, he says everything is in preparation for the future work: “I don’t like any of my work. I have a troubled relationship with my work,” he confesses disarmingly. “But there’s a good poem in me… I sense it lurking… I haven’t written it yet, and I don’t know how to reach it.” He shrugs, face and palms open towards the audience. “T’ai chi masters talk of dustless action and that’s what I strive for. Dustless action. Perfection. It is possible,” he nods vigorously, but then stalls, his face falling. “The trend now for popular poems are ones showing lots of dust.” He shakes his head, his disappointment shared by many in the room.

A lifelong t’ai chi practitioner, he believes everyone should practice, as it is “a dynamism of opposites which is at the centre of it all”.

“The ultimate polarities, the ultimate opposites is the definition of t’ai chi,” he says. “So making poetry you have a profound voice and silence – I’m not sure you have the differentials of this in prose. Let me talk about architecture,” he says as the room slides from distrust into a rapt attention. “The medium of architecture is of space. You inhabit space and you inhabit it differently – a bedroom, a shop, a temple – you’re using the same materials but how you inflect the space impacts on how a person inhabits it. Poetry is like this. You’re using the materiality of language in poetry and the opposite is silence.”

As an example, he speaks of a visit to Duke University Cathedral, and how when he was approaching the building he was walking in “vertical infinitude” but wasn’t aware of it until he went inside this gothic cathedral with “space inflected” and saw a little boy lying on his back looking up into the great dome, calling out to his mother ‘I’m falling upwards!’ “We live in vertical infinitude,” he smiles, “yet we forget this until we go into a cathedral and then we remember. Poetry is like this. Poetry is a revelation of reality.”

Born in Indonesia to Chinese political exiles, the family were, as he puts it “fugitives, on the run, changing names and identities” during his early years, finally receiving asylum in the US in 1964. An audience member asks about his childhood, and his acclaimed memoir, The Winged Seed: A Remembrance (1995), but Lee is reluctant to speak about it.

“I don’t want to remember any of that stuff,” he says. “The Ancient Greeks said the Great Muse is memory, but it is the kind Buddhists remember when they meditate – our original state.” He is warming to this new subject, expanding before our eyes. “I have a self I expose to the public world – a public self. My private self is disclosed to my family and friends, my secret self is disclosed when utterly in private, and my unknown self has a kind of personal memory I can’t account for. There’s an unknown self that is twenty thousand years old. This is what poets need to connect with – that intelligence we find in Emily Dickenson’s poetry – it’s an intelligence that’s older than America – this unknown intelligence which poets need to connect to.”

I can feel others in the room leaning forward into this surprising conversation. “Composite nature is in us,” he says suddenly, “like the number twelve – it’s a version of two, three, four, six. Then there’s a prime number like seven, which is just a version of itself. We’re versions of each other – our friends, mother, and so on – we’re composite – versions of Buddha, our teachers, etcetera – but we’re also prime. There’s a primacy in us. How do we access this primacy? We can only encounter it through the unknown self. You can’t will a poem into being – it isn’t up to you. When you’re in contact with the unknown self, the imagination – well, that’s when you’re really working, really making.”

Chimes from the Clock Tower across the way break into the silent room. Our hour is up. We wander out from the Old Parliament Building into the shrill brilliance of tropical sunshine, past the river-side statue of Raffles, ‘founder’ of modern Singapore, dazed. I sit at Raffle’s landing place and look out onto Boat Quay, light-headed from a masterclass with a poet, mystic, and trickster all rolled into one.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/li-young-lee

“It’s like The Vagina Monologues for Deaf and disabled actors.” The Stage interview.

My recent work in Singapore, developing my Unlimited international r&d commission, seemed to catch peoples’ curiosity and interest. What follows is an excerpt from an interview I gave to Joe Turnbull for The Stage. The full feature can be accessed here. 

O’Reilly’s collaborators Ramesh Meyyappan,
above centre, and Peter Sau, right, with Grace Khoo in And Suddenly I Disappear. Photo: Wesley Loh, Memphis Pictures West

Playwright Kaite O’Reilly’s latest groundbreaking production sets out to challenge the way disabled people are perceived in Singapore. Using disabled actors, she was determined to tell the stories of those who are not normally heard in a country where previous generations were locked up and left to die, as she tells Joe Turnbull

Five years ago, disabled playwright Kaite O’Reilly pushed the humble monologue into new creative territory with In Water I’m Weightless, an Unlimited commission for the Cultural Olympiad as part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The show featured an all deaf and disabled cast. It had no discernible plot and experimented with dramaturgical form, incorporating access elements such as audio description and sign language into the creative material.

Now, O’Reilly’s latest project And Suddenly I Disappear…The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues, sees her return to this approach of creating a play out of a series of fictionalised monologues – sometimes delivered chorally – which are inspired by stories about the lived experiences of deaf and disabled people. It’s arguably even more ambitious than its predecessor.

Its development spans nine years, five languages and two continents (three if you include the trip to America that inspired it all). Not only that, it seeks to challenge the way disability theatre is both produced and received in Singapore and smash deep-seated preconceptions about disabled and deaf experience along the way.

“I received a Creative Wales Award in 2008-9, which allowed me an extended period of exploration and development,” recalls O’Reilly. “I spent time in New  York very briefly with Eve Ensler of the Vagina Monologues and Ping Chong and his Undesirable Elements series. I hung out with a load of disabled people that he’d interviewed who he then got to perform. I began thinking about that as a vehicle for challenging preconceptions and hopefully subverting some of the old narratives that are problematic – that are connected to what I would call the ‘atypical body’ – whether that’s neuro or physically or sensory. I interviewed over 70 deaf and disabled people from the UK and the material it inspired me to write became The ‘d’ Monologues, which provided the text for In Water I’m Weightless.”

O’Reilly’s affinity with Singapore predates even that, having had a relationship with its Intercultural Theatre Institute since 2004, and teaching there for the last six years. It was in 2004 that she met two of the main collaborators for And Suddenly I Disappear. The first is Peter Sau, a graduate of the institute and winner of best actor in the 2015 Singapore Life! Theatre Awards. Sau is associate-directing the project and managing much of the work being carried out in Singapore. The other is Ramesh Meyyappan, a deaf Singaporean visual and physical theatremaker now based in Glasgow, who will be overseeing the physical language elements of the project.

O’Reilly explains how she first met Meyyappan all those years ago: “He had just finished a performance of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart and The Masque of the Red Death. People were telling him this weird ‘ang mo’ [Singaporean for white foreigner] is waiting outside and says she won’t leave until she speaks with you. We just about managed to have a conversation, partly through Singaporean Sign Language and me with British Sign Language and sign-supported English. It all got very funny.”

O’Reilly reconnected with Sau in 2015 when he came to UK to do an MA. “We started to hatch the idea of what I would call an international dialogue of difference, diversity and disability and deaf experience from opposite sides of the world,” she says. The piece received an Unlimited International R&D in March 2017 and has been in proper development since.

“Although we hadn’t worked together before, I thought I had to have Ramesh on board as well. I explained to him that he would be the bridge. He knows Singaporean sign language and he understands both Singapore and the UK. Also if we’re going to do this work – and I’ve always done this – I want it to be disability-led and deaf-led. So Ramesh is leading the deaf cultural parts of the project.” Everyone else involved in the project also identifies as disabled or deaf, both culturally and politically. Sau and his team have been collecting testimonies of disabled and deaf people in Singapore, with O’Reilly doing the same in the UK, which have inspired the latter to produce a series of fictionalised monologues – some abstract, some character-driven. The monologues are delivered across multiple languages – English, Mandarin, Welsh, British Sign Language and Singapore Sign Language. O’Reilly is keen to stress it’s not verbatim.

“I’ve always said people’s stories belong to them. As long as something says ‘by Kaite O’Reilly’ it has got to be by Kaite O’Reilly, otherwise it’s theft. I think it’s to do with my Irish cultural heritage – your stories are who you are. Ping Chong got around verbatim by getting the interviewees for Undesirable Elements to perform it themselves. I’m not saying verbatim is necessarily bad practice, there are ways of doing it well. It’s just my personal position.”

But some of the testimonies coming out of Singapore have been deeply concerning to O’Reilly, a lifelong disability rights advocate, whose activism includes lying down in front of buses on Direct Action Network demos.

“The central thing I’ve got so far listening to the interviews from Singapore is how people are completely invisible, hence the title. I’m hearing the most terrifying stories of disabled people being kept in the back rooms, never actually going out. A lot of them in previous generations were left to die at birth. So what we’re doing here is really radical. I’m encouraging them to record the interviews as well so there’s an oral archive. These are voices, experiences, perspectives that have never been paid attention to previously.”

To read the rest of the article, please go to: https://www.thestage.co.uk/features/2017/writer-kaite-oreilly-on-singapore-d-monologues/

With thanks to Joe Turnbull, The Stage and Unlimited

Singapore: talks, festivals, performances, artist meetings and a royal reception in a borrowed dress

Kaite O’Reilly at British Council talk, 17/11/17, Singapore Art Museum

 

The past month in Singapore has been a phenomenally busy but rich time. I fly back to the UK later today, having completed my teaching of Dramaturgy at ITI – the Intercultural Theatre Institute – and writing workshops for the emerging Deaf and disabled writers and practitioners of Project Tandem. Last night I presented my British Council ‘Knowledge is Great’ talk: Nothing About Us Without Us – What Can Singapore learn from 30 years of the UK’s Disability arts and culture?’ I presented in the Glass Hall of the beautiful Singapore Art Museum and am so grateful to have had this opportunity to speak about my work and the UK’s disability arts scene. Singapore is currently embracing all things to do with disability and diversity – a time full of great potential for reshaping a more inclusive society and arts scene in the future, although there are many questions, particularly regarding the difference between Disability arts – led by disabled artists, informed by the Social Model of disability and often an expression of lived experience in a disabling world, and arts and disability.

Singapore – natural and manmade

 

It was great to be able to speak about the work I’ve made both within the so-called ‘mainstream’ and with Deaf and disabled collaborators over thirty years, and to share some video and images from productions in the past five years. The response was fantastic, with many questions and comments and right at the end of a lively post-talk discussion, assertions regarding the need for agency and disabled and Deaf leadership opportunities, as opposed to the charity model currently prevalent in Singapore. It was a lively and stimulating event, and I’m thankful for all those who made comments and asked questions. All the organisations and individuals I have met in Singapore have said how dialogue is so important – to discover if there are lessons or shortcuts to be learned for Singapore from the experience in the UK. Every country has its own context and history and will forge its own path forwards to what we all hope will be a more fair and egalitarian future – and if I can assist in this dialogue of difference and diversity, I am more than happy to.

Ramesh Meyyappan, Sara Beer, Peter Sau, Lee Lee Lim and Grace Khoo: R&D ‘And Suddenly I Disappear: the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues’

 

I was so pleased we were able to share earlier this autumn the work in progress of my disability arts and culture collaboration with Singapore: And Suddenly I Disappear: the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues. An international r&d commission from Unlimited, it was a good example of disabled and Deaf-led work and the seeding of work by Deaf and disabled artists into the cultural sector – Unlimited’s mission statement.

Natalie Lim, Lee Lee Lim and Nice the dog, Kaite and Danial Bawthan at the High Commission

This month has also been rich in meetings of the unexpected kind, with an invitation to the High Commission with my fellow collaborators for a royal reception. I attended with Nat Lim,  Peter Sau, Danial Bawthan, Lee Lee Lim and Nice the dog, in a borrowed dress, courtesy of Nat (thank you). Formal attire was not included in my suitcase when I packed to come to Singapore and I was certainly not expecting to meet Prince Charles.

The Indomitable Irishry: Singapore Writers festival

 

I was in Singapore at a great time to indulge my love for workshops, panel discussions and readings, as I coincided with the Singapore Writers’ Festival. Further fortune came with the focus this year being on Ireland, and I was able to meet and hear some of my favourite Irish authors and poets. Notes on these sessions and from some of the talks and workshops I attended will follow at a later date on this blog.

Artist Chng Seok Tin in her studio

 

 

 

A final and most delightful meeting was with artist Chng Seok Tin at her studio. Seok Tin works in an astonishing breadth of mediums, becoming more tactile in her work after she lost her sight many years ago. It was such a pleasure to meet a woman artist so inventive and expressive, who embraces change and learning new techniques and form. I have asked her to participate in my ’20 Questions…’ series and so hope to present more information about her and her work in a future post.

Masjid Sultan, muscat Street, Singapore.

The sun is blazing on this, my last day in Singapore, as I prepare for the chill of the UK and the closing-in nights of winter. I am so thankful to all who hosted me, met me, supported my work, talks and workshops and hope to return in Spring 2018.

Ty Newydd Masterclass announced for 11-16 June 2018

 

Ty Newydd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delighted that my masterclass in writing for performance at Ty Newydd, the National Writing Centre for Wales, has been announced.

I will be back in beautiful north Wales, leading an intensive practical workshop for experienced writers between Monday 11 June – Saturday 16 June 2018. This is a special course, for just eight participants, and it always fills quickly,  so early booking is advised. I ask for writers to apply for the course, outlining emerging work, hopes for the week, and any particular areas you wish to explore. I’ve been told by participants over the years that this short ‘application’ focuses minds and moves embryonic projects along even before we gather in Llanystumdwy, so it seems to be useful for the writer as well as myself and Ty Newydd, curating the best course and company.

Masterclass: Writing for Performance

Mon 11 Jun – Sat 16 Jun 2018
Tutor / Kaite O’Reilly
Course Fee / From £495 – £625 per person
Genres / PerformanceScripting
Language / English
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“The tutor was outstanding… I’ve been twice before and I learn more and more each time. Kaite is rigorous, supportive, and exciting to work with.”
Participant on 2017 masterclass.

.This is a masterclass for experienced writers who are seeking guidance with the shaping and direction of their work-in-progress, or who have an idea formulating, burning to get on the page. This intensive but enjoyable week is structured with daily practical workshops and exercises to find entry points for new writing, and skills-based tasks to develop technique and strengthen your work. This will include approaches to editing and revision, developing character, plot, dynamic, and the world of your play. We will explore the most effective dramatic structure for your script or best form for your performance writing, finding clarity about what you really want to say and how best dramaturgically to communicate it.

There will be one-to-one dramaturgical sessions during the week; evening practical workshops; and a chance to share work-in-progress and garnering constructive feedback.

As this is a popular course with an unusually small group for experienced writers (8 participants) there will be a selection process. You will be asked to outline your project, areas of concern you wish to address, and share some work-in-progress, even if just an idea. This will enable the week to be bespoke, structured specifically towards developing the work of the participants. Contact Tŷ Newydd with your application.

An advance reading list will also be provided. At the end of the week you will be ready for the next stage in your writing, with new starting points and techniques.

http://www.tynewydd.wales/course/masterclass-writing-performance/

Ty Newydd, the house:

Built in the fifteenth century, Tŷ Newydd is a Grade II* listed building with a rich history. Famously the last home of former Prime Minister David Lloyd George, it has seen many families passing through its doors over the centuries. The heritage rattles around the rooms in Tŷ Newydd.

The house itself has six bedrooms, two libraries, a large dining room, a kitchen, and a conservatory. It also houses the Tŷ Newydd office. Tŷ Newydd’s outbuilding, Hafoty, includes the tutors’ quarters, and a further six rooms for guests. It also includes a writing nook. The atmosphere at Tŷ Newydd is relaxed and informal, and in feedback, we are told over and over again how conducive this is to creativity.

When you stay with us, Tŷ Newydd becomes your creative space, your home in which to shift about and share ideas with fellow writers. The beautiful grounds looking out over Cardigan Bay were restyled by famous architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the 1940s, and provide the perfect setting for you to write in peace and quiet.

Singapore rehearsal diary for New Welsh Review….’And Suddenly I Disappear….’

What follows in an excerpt from my rehearsal diary, commissioned by New Welsh Review, documenting part of my process working in Singapore this Autumn on ‘And Suddenly I Disappear… The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues’, my international r&d commission from Unlimited. I am immensely grateful to New Welsh Review for providing this feature free – see more on the journal at https://www.newwelshreview.com and here

Stephanie Fam performing in Kaite O’Reilly’s international r&d Unlimited commission ‘And Suddenly I Disappear… the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues’ before a still image of Sophie Stone using visual language, Photograph: Kaite O’Reilly

 

 

18/9/17:

We arrive into Singapore at the end of the Month of the Hungry Ghosts. Flaming braziers sit on street corners and outside temples. Paper money from the Bank of Hell and small cardboard models of cars, smartphones, booze, cigarettes and all the trappings of the good life are set alight in the braziers as offerings to the dead ancestors. Zhong Yuan Jie is the period in the seventh month of the lunar calendar when the gates of the underworld are opened to allow the souls of the dead to roam the earth. Relatives burn offerings to appease their deceased family members, ensuring they don’t become ‘hungry ghosts’ up to mischief, jealous of the living and what they have.

Even in its Taoist and Buddhist rituals, Singapore is commercial, taking care of material needs into the afterlife.

We – performer Sara Beer, director Phillip Zarrilli and I – are here for the r&d of  my collaboration between Wales and Singapore, ‘And Suddenly I Disappear… The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues’, an Unlimited International Commission and dialogue about disability, diversity and difference from opposite sides of the world.

Singapore is a young nation, a high-functioning capitalist culture valuing commerce and uniformity, where, my producer Grace Khoo tells me, she was raised ‘not to ask questions, to keep my chin down and not to stand out.’ It is recently embracing notions of diversity and inclusion, but its awareness of disability issues and culture are very much in its infancy. How challenging atypical embodiment, disability politics, the aesthetics of access and what I call ‘alternative dramaturges nformed by a d/Deaf and disability perspective’ may be here, I’m about to find out.

The UK has a long and proud history of disabled peoples’ activism, something Sara Beer and I have been engaged with for decades. Our background is punkish, proud and irreverent – ‘nothing about us without us’ is one of the Disabled Peoples Movement’s slogans – ‘Piss on Pity’ another, a badge I still wear. How this will fit with the ultra-conservative Singaporeans and a system that would not have tolerated our direct action of the 90s remains to be seen. A fascinating conversation is in the process of happening.

20/9/17:
We rehearse at Centre 42, a heritage house in downtown Singapore, greeted by my main collaborator, Peter Sau, and herbal teas from the local Chinese medical hall to help counter the excessive humidity. Peter is an award-winning actor and theatre maker, and a friend since my first visit to Singapore in 2004. He and producer Grace came to the UK in 2016 in order to explore disability arts and culture, with the aim to professionalise it in Singapore .

Some of the ‘And Suddenly I Disappear…’ team, including Sara Beer and Ramesh Meyyappan, Lee Lee Lim, Danial Bawthan and Shai outside Centre 42, Singapore.

Together we made an application to Unlimited, building on the model I developed from my 2008/09 Creative Wales award. Then, advised by Eve Ensler and Ping Chong, I explored the form of the monologue, interviewing d/Deaf and disabled people across the UK, using their perspectives, experiences, and opinions as inspiration to write fictional monologues. These were later produced as ‘In Water I’m Weightless’, the National Theatre Wales/Unlimited production, part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. It’s important that I write the texts rather than ‘steal’ from the source material, for what are we but our stories? I prefer to invent. This also ensures that the material cannot be individualised, reduced down to one person’s unfortunate experience rather than a synthesis of the collective experience of prejudice we are all complicit in.

In Singapore, Peter and his dedicated team of researchers, transcribers, and translators are partway through intensive interviews with disabled and d/Deaf Singaporeans. These are stories that have gone unremarked and unreported. Despite the new focus on inclusivity and diversity, ingrained beliefs linger, and in many ways difference and disability is shameful in Singapore, so several of our interviewees, although eager to contribute, request anonymity.

The recordings and transcripts of the interviews are remarkable, Peter and his colleagues have eked out conversations of candour and passion. As I write the drafts I’m reminded of my own ‘coming out’ as a disabled person and personal revolution after meeting the social model of disability, which turned everything I previously knew upside down. I’d been reared on the Medical Model, where the body is at fault, requiring medicalisation and normalisation. The social model sees disability, like gender, as a social construct, and it is society and its physical and attitudinal barriers which are disabling, not the body itself. Value is given where previously there was none.

It is no surprise then that many of the conversations ongoing in Singapore prompt tears and extraordinary openness from people so often denied respect. How daunting and exhilarating then is my task – to write fictional work responding to this stimulus, and begin work on embodying these voices.

22/9/17:

Ideas from the interviews are reversed or reinvented, Peter, Grace and Lee Lee Lim advise me on the use of Mandarin, Hokkien and Singlish vocabulary, which help make the rhythms and cadences of the dialogue more Singaporean. The collaboration is shaping into a dialogue, resulting in a series of vibrant, multimedia monologues inspired by lived experience, layering theatrical languages and utilising captioning, integrated audio description and visual language in the aesthetics of access, a first for Singapore. We realise there are seven spoken and signed languages in use in the rehearsal room, reflecting the multicultural diversity and linguistic complexity of Singapore. I feel we’re exploring how stories change in different cultures, languages and contexts…. How do we ‘speak’ to each other?

25/9/17:

I write a choral monologue to be explored in spoken, projected and visual language.

Be like water. Be like a river. You dip a bowl into the river and the river fills it and becomes the bowl. Pour into a pot, it becomes the pot. Treat with fire and it becomes steam…. This is how you will be. Unstoppable. Fluid. Powerful.
.

The day I need to submit this diary, just one week after meeting and four days before our in progress sharing, the inclusive company has come together with a startling cohesion. Peter’s team is filled with committed individuals keen to bring about change. Monologues that seemed too edgy and politically challenging on first reading now rise off the page, owned. The sense of pride and celebration is tangible. Sara asks Danial Bawthan, one of our emerging disabled performers, how he is finding the process. ‘Priceless,’ he says. ‘I want to be that water, the water that goes into that bowl.’

And Suddenly I Disappear… cycles of inspiration

 

This is a story of collaboration and inspiration…. of how a project inspired a poem and the poem inspired a design and the design became a poster and therefore the image for the project…

There is a poetic symmetry to this cycle of inspiration which I find hugely satisfying.

I am in the midst of an international collaboration – And Suddenly I Disappear: the Singapore ‘d’ Monologues. commissioned by Unlimited, which you can read about here, here, and here. My collaborator in Singapore, Peter Sau, had recently embarked on a massive research exercise, gathering the stories from d/Deaf and disabled Singaporeans to inspire The ‘d’ monologues I would write. One of Peter’s research volunteers, Shai (Nur Shafiza Shafie) became fascinated with the title…. what might the ‘d’ stand for? That tantalising enigmatic letter became a thought, became a response to the project and our ambitions – and became a poem:.

Invitation to D
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Dearest,
Disadvantaged, disempowered
Despised, deprived, downtrod
Deviant, daring and disturbed
Devoutly disillusioned with God
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Destroyed, damaged and dirty
Dishevelled and disheartened
Dismayed, depressed and dreary
Demonised yet defiant
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Determined, deserving, delicate
Different, distinct and diverse
Disabled, deaf and deliberate
Definers of your own dark universe.
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Do it. Defy the disbelievers.
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Disarm them. Deflect them.
Dance around their dreadful hum.
Devour them. Diminish them.
Drown their egos with your drum.
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Decry them. Deplore them.
Dilapidate your despair.
Disturb them. Distress them.
Devastate them if you dare.
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Debate them. Debunk them.
Dig down deeply for the fight.
‎Destroy them. Defeat them.
Drag them kicking to the light.
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(C) Copyright Shai (Nur Shafiza Shafie) 2017
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The project’s UK producer, Grace Khoo, shared Shai’s words with me and I was delighted that our project was inspiring such a creative response from our generous volunteer.
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Then Shai’s poem was seen by our publicity and marketing designer Ho Su Yuen, who swiftly responded with a striking block letter design, using the words from the poem. I, meanwhile, was developing the title of the project. A common theme seemed to be emerging from the video footage and transcripts from the interviews – that of d/Deaf and disabled people being made invisible. This sentiment offered the full title to me: And Suddenly I Disappear…. The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues. The new title was passed on to Ho Su Yuen, who immediately responded with a new offering. 
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Various conversations followed and the design went back and forth as it evolved, Grace and Sara Beer (collaborator on the project and development officer for Disability Arts Cymru) advising on making the logo more accessible.
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And suddenly – there it was…. The beautiful bold image, above… the logo for our project, the poster image created from defiant poetry written in direct response to the interviewees who are inspiring the fictional monologues. This is such a wonderful example of how generosity feeds inspiration and creativity generates more creativity…
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With great thanks to Shai (Nur Shafiza Shafie) and Ho Su Yuen for your beautiful contributions.
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Commissioned and supported by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists, with funding from Arts Council of Wales and British Council.