Tag Archives: disability arts and culture

Why Diversity Matters: Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors

Feature for booksbywomen.org

“You have to see it, to be it.” This slogan seems to be cropping up everywhere in these diversity-conscious days, whether it’s about creating role models or better representation for girls, mature women, or what is increasingly known as BAME – individuals from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic origins. It is particularly important in the media, which supposedly mirrors our society and whose powerful imagery helps shape our values, morals, norms, and ambitions.

Moving image media, theatre, and novels help us understand the world, our feelings, relationships, and social responsibilities, playing a crucial role in communicating what is ‘appropriate’ for our age, gender and cultural heritage.

Female protagonists? No… For far too long women were harridans or eye candy, the supporting cast hanging onto the white male hero’s arm, or being dismissed as a nag and a hag. Black and Asian actor friends despaired at being cast, yet again, as the gangster/drug dealer, the ‘exotic’ princess, or victim daughter forced into an arranged marriage.

These limited and limiting stereotypes proliferate in books, on screen, and stage, and although the situation is slowly improving, these harmful ‘types’ and narratives still linger, constantly reflecting negative images of ‘difference’. Never is this more obvious, I would argue, than in the representation of impairment – part of the diversity argument we still hear little about. The desire to subvert or challenge harmful images of disability is what fired my writing Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors, published by Oberon.

Tiny Tim. Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dam. Mrs Rochester, the mad woman in the attic. Captain Hook. Richard III….to name just a few. Since Oedipus, disability has been used in the western theatrical and literary traditions as a useful shortcut to signify evil, helplessness, instability, and a plethora of other negative human traits that inspire pity or fear. The images continue in films: the tormented genius, the evil Bond ‘baddie’, the blade-slashing psychopath, the victim who conveniently leaves the scene either by dying, being institutionalised, or ‘overcoming’ the condition and so ‘passing’ as non-disabled…

To read the rest of this feature, please click here

Feature originally published on http://booksbywomen.org/why-diversity-is-important-atypical-plays-for-atypical-actors-bu-kaite-o-reilly/

17% review of ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’

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I’ve been a follower and reader of 17% for some time, and so I was delighted when I received a request for a review copy of my collected ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’. I’m proud to be included on the bookshelf! What follows is the review at: http://wp.me/pzWTb-BJ

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Kaite O’Reilly has won various awards for her work, including the Peggy Ramsay Award for YARD (Bush Theatre, London), Manchester Evening News Best Play of 2004 for Perfect (Contact Theatre) and was one of the winners of the 2009 International Susan Smith Blackburn Award for The Almond and the Seahorse (Sherman Cymru). Her new version of Aeschylus’s Persians was directed in August 2010 by Mike Pearson site-specifically on Ministry Of Defence land in Wales, part of the inaugural year of National Theatre Wales, and won the 2011 Ted Hughes Award for New Works in Poetry. She works extensively within disability arts and culture, and wrote the ground breaking peeling for Graeae Theatre in 2002.

O’Reilly’s ‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ (Oberon Books, 2016) is the first collection of plays which places disabled and deaf actors and characters centre stage, and are written by a writer who is at the forefront of disability arts culture.

It is also a collection of plays which will make you reconsider the common language of plays. It will make you think about the usual form of a play which actually excludes any actor who might not fit the norms of ability. It might even make you question whether your own writing needs to change in order to embrace every aspect of the human condition.

There are plays featuring a range of disabilities which broaden the range of characters we usually see on stage.

peeling takes a meta-theatrical format as the three chorus members discuss the play they are and their lives using sign supported English, BSL and audio description. Reading this play was a particularly eye opening experience as the extra forms of communication add multiple layers.

The Almond and the Seahorse deals with traumatic brain injury, and Cosy is about eugenics and assisted suicide, issues which are at the forefront of disability politics. These two plays are more traditional in format, though none-the-less offer surprises.

The monologues In water I’m weightless were developed through extensive conversations with disabled and deaf people about every aspect of their lives. O’Reilly wanted to capture ‘the spiked angry early energy of the disability rights movement as I watched from 2010 onwards David Cameron’s Conservative government dismantle may of the equal rights and benefits we had won…’ This play feels particularly relevant now, as more and more rights are dismantled for disabled and able-bodied alike, and, as with the rest of the plays reproduced in this collection, the texts only serve to underline that despite our differences we are also the same in many ways.

In The 9 Fridas, Frida Kahlo is reclaimed as a disability icon in a mosaic of a play where Frida Kahlo is played by multiple actors.

The form and content of the plays tests not only what a play is, but also who we tell stories about. The play texts are open to being expanded by the actors and the production design. This is very much recommended reading.

Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors
Kaite O’Reilly
Oberon Books, £16.99

Disability Arts Cymru Poetry Competition 2016

Image from Disability Art Cymru. Image by Michele Brenton

Image from Disability Art Cymru. Image by Michele Brenton

As patron of the excellent Disability Arts Cymru, I’m delighted to publicise their call for submissions for the forthcoming Poetry Competition. What follows is from DAC. Please contact them, at the information below, with any queries and submissions:

Poetry Competition  Disability Arts Cymru – closing date July 31st 2016

       Prize money & Digital publication

  We invite you to submit work that is in response to the theme of Austerity and/or Extravagance
Two Prizes of £50 with digital & online publication
Closing date July 31st

We look forward to receiving your submissions of poetry, spread the word and share this with your friends and colleagues.

Theme of Austerity/Extravagance: In the light of recent governmental decisions, which affect many people throughout Wales, we want to reflect the feelings about this through our poetry by DAC members, many of whom have been affected by austerity measures. Contrary to this we are also asking for work in response to the theme of ‘Extravagance’.
Judges are Dominic Williams and Sian Northey

for the entry criterea you can CLICK HERE

or for more info call: 02920 551 040
or email: kate@dacymru.com

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‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ review – Disability Arts Online

atypical-plays-for-atypical-actors

Reviews are gold dust. They are even more rare when the publication under the critical lens is a collection of plays. Plays get reviewed in production; they seldom make it into print, never mind being reviewed in print. So owing to this, I am hugely appreciative of the publications who have shown interest and support of my ‘atypical’ and crip’ work by providing critical engagement for my selected plays.

First up is the ever provocative and excellent Disability Arts Online, with a review by  Sonali Shah. I reproduce much of the review here, but you can read the  full text on the website, where DAO readers can find a 30% discount voucher for the collection.

Disability Arts Online: Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors Review July 4 2016 by Sonali Shah.

‘Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors’ is a collection of five unique, but equally powerful, poetic and political pieces of drama composed by the award winning playwright, Kaite O’Reilly. Review by Dr Sonali Shah (University of Glasgow)

O’Reilly’s policy and practice as a writer is to ‘put crips in our scripts’.[…] So with this motto in mind, O’Reilly’s ‘Atypical Plays’ present opportunities for disabled artists to occupy the stage and challenge audiences’ assumptions about disability and difference. The writer works together with her actors in a non-hierarchical and innovative way, continuously and purposefully adapting to each unique movement, to create the five theatrical pieces in this collection: Peeling, The Almond and the Seahorse, In Water I’m Weightless, the 9 Fridas and Cosy.

Written in the 21st Century and from an insider lens, these five plays subvert traditional notions of normalcy and encourage the possibilities of human difference to explore the whirlwind of relationships, emotions, choices and identities that, both construct us and are constructed by us, as we all move through life and try to work out what it is to be human.

These texts portray disabled characters as sexy, active and wilful beings in empowering and provocative stories, cutting against the grain of the trope for most blockbusters of stage and screen, which revolve around medicalisation and normalisation using disabled characters as a metaphor for tragedy, loss or horror.

The first play, peeling, described by the Scotsman as ‘a feminist masterpiece’, is a fine example of meta-theatre that explores themes of war, eugenics, and fertility. Written specifically for a Deaf woman and two disabled women (each strong, witty actors and feisty activists), peeling is a postmodern take on the epic Trojan Women.

Although the three characters – Alfa, Beaty and Coral – are consigned to the chorus, O’Reilly makes them central to this play, revealing their real personalities and hidden truths through vocal cat-fights and heckling matches (interpreted via BSL and audio description) while they wait to play the two minute part they have been awarded in the name of ‘inclusion’.

The Almond and the Seahorse is the second script, and the most structured of them all. Written for a cast of five, it examines the impact of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) for the individual and their slowly fading loved ones. Focusing on two couples (where one partner in each has a diminishing memory) it demonstrates the slow debilitating power of memory loss on present relationships and dreams for the future.

Reading this script evokes a sense of how critical and delicate the human memory is. This is reflected in the words of Dr Falmer (the ambitious neuropsychologist character whose beloved father had TBI) – ‘we should not invest so in such perishable goods’ (p.127). The vibrant clarity of monologue, dialogue and stage directions on the page makes it easy to visualise this play on the stage. Highly affecting, the performed text will undoubtedly give much food for thought for the audiences.

The third play in this collection In Water I am Weightless – is an apt title for exploring the heavy burden disability seems to provoke in society as in water it remains hidden. Written for a cast of six Deaf and disabled actors, and entrenched in crip humour and energy of the Disability Movement, the performance script adopts a monologue and dialogue style to create a mosaic of stories of the realities of living in a disabling society and being seen as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘in need’ by the non-disabled.[…] Performed at Unlimited in London 2012, and inspired by a range of informal conversations with disabled and Deaf citizens, this work is really does put “us” in the slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us”.

The 9 Fridas use the artwork of the disabled Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, as a lens to deconstruct her biography including her changing social positioning in terms of her disabled and feminist identities. The last play, Cosy, is a dark comedy exploring inevitable ageing and death.

Together the five plays make essential reading, both for educational purposes and pleasure. Informed by the Social Model of Disability, they have the potential to enact a kind of activism and a change in public perceptions towards disabled people, previously shaped by negative representations in popular culture. Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors offers an entertaining and poetical insight into what is means to be human.

 

With thanks to Disability Arts Online. Please check out this essential website – http://disabilityarts.online – an important hub for discussion, reflection and engagement with disability arts and culture.

Atypical Plays Discount code from Oberon books available to DAO readers here

Why we need disabled and Deaf playwrights and theatre makers

In reaction to the cuts in Access to Work and the Independent Living Fund, and inspired by Jenny Sealey’s Guardian article We Will Not Let Government Cuts Make Us Invisible,  I wrote an article for Exeunt magazine: Embracing all the possibilities of human variety – why we need disabled and Deaf playwrights and theatre makers. You can read the article here

Framing the atypical body.

Last year I was at Tanzkongress in Dusseldorf, giving a paper entitled ‘Border Control: Framing the atypical body.’ It was largely in response to Jerome Bel’s ‘Disabled Theater’, which I had seen at HAU in Berlin in 2012, and which angered me owing to its manipulation and framing of the actors with intellectual impairments who perform in this piece.

As someone who identifies as disabled and as a disability artist, I was frustrated by what I perceived as the lens of ‘normalcy’ through which we were invited to view the atypical body in this, and other so-called experimental or radical pieces. This talk was my response to that.

I am grateful to Rafael Ugarte Chacón for bringing the link to my talk to my attention.

DANCE CONGRESS 2013 IN DÜSSELDORF

‘Border Control: Framing the atypical body. 

“You say radical, I say conservative, you say inclusive, I say subversive …”


Kaite O’Reilly has been working for many years within Deaf arts and disability culture. In this lecture, she examines the possibilities and limits of artistic inclusion in performances, e.g., by Jérôme Bel, as well as her own work. To what extent is dealing with the “atypical body” politically and culturally shaped? How does the concept of normalcy of the majority society relate to a politicised “disability culture” that affirms the multiplicity of human differences?

 http://www.tanzkongress.de/de/programm/kongressprogramm.html?date=2013-06-08#event-76-0

Art/Works to host Kaite O’Reilly 21-24 February 2014, Cork.

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Art|Works UCC is delighted to present playwright and dramaturg Kaite O’Reilly in a series of events including:
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Rehearsed reading of ‘Cosy’ 
Directed by Phillip Zarrilli, followed by wine reception

Saturday, February 22nd (5  7pm), Triskel Arts Centre, Cork

Cynthia Mackowick-Traun

Cynthia Mackowick-Traun

Kaite O’Reilly’s new work-in-progress play, Cosy, is a dark comedic tour-de-force written for six female performers ranging across three generations. Set in a dilapidated house, the estranged family gather —for the matriarch Rose wants to die. (Secretly) failed businesswoman Camille and her precociously intelligent teenage daughter, Isabella, arrive to find the house falling down around their ears and Ed, the elder sister/house-keeper isolated and old before her time. Then the much-traveled, many times divorced Gloria arrives, but the black sheep of the family is transformed – and who is the strange woman taking refuge in the garden shed?  The play explores family dynamics, issues of inheritance and self-ownership, and how to ‘keep the faith’ in the midst of economic chaos.

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“Do one thing every day that scares you.”  Get over the fear and start writing: A two day intensive with playwright Kaite O’Reilly.

(By application only)

Saturday, February 22nd & Sunday 23rd February

Triskel Arts Centre, Cork

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Lunchtime lecture:

 Neither Richard, nor Oedipus nor (Tiny) Tim. Dominant and Alternative Representations of Disability in Drama

Monday, February 24th (1 – 2pm), G1O Brookfield health Sciences Complex, UCC

Throughout the western dramatic tradition impairment has been a metaphor for the human condition. But what ‘truths’ have these metaphors generated and what might be alternative contemporary images and narratives?

In this lecture Kaite will briefly discuss the long cultural and linguistic practice of assigning meaning to the impaired body, and offer alternative representations, including from her own work ‘peeling’ and ‘The Almond and the Seahorse.’


 Lecture to mark Disability Awareness Week UCC

Disability Arts and Culture: “NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US”

A personal odyssey through the UK’s Disability Civil Rights Movement to ‘crip’ culture and disability arts.

 Monday, February 24th (5 – 7pm), venue TBC

 


For further information or enquiries please contact:

Dr Bernadette Cronin
Lecturer, Drama & Theatre Studies
School of Music and Theatre
College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences
University College Cork
+353 (0) 21 490 4070
b.cronin@ucc.ie

Dr Rachel MagShamhráin
Lecturer, German
O’Rahilly Building (1.41)
University College Cork
+353 (0) 21 490 2689
r.magshamhrain@ucc.ie

WHAT IS ART|WORKS?

Art|Works is a collaborative initiative intended to provide a vibrant hub that links Arts students, past, present and future, with academic stakeholders, employers, industry practitioners, and interested members of the wider public.

ENGAGE WITH ART|WORKS

Art|Works was launched in January 2013, with an inaugural event at the Triskel Development Centre, Cork. If you would like to engage with Art|Works, or be kept updated on forthcoming events, please feel free to connect with us:

E-mail:

info@artworksireland.org

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Kaite O’Reilly has won various awards for her work, including the Peggy Ramsay Award for YARD (Bush Theatre, London), MEN Best Play of the year for Perfect (Contact Theatre), a finalist of the 2009 International Susan Smith Blackburn Award for The Almond and the Seahorse (Sherman Cymru) and the 2010/11 winner of The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her retelling of Aeschylus’sPersians (National Theatre Wales). Productions in 2012 included LeanerFasterStronger (Chol/Sheffield Theatres) part of the Cultural Olympiad and In Water I’m Weightless (National Theatre Wales), an Unlimited Commission, part of the official festival at The Southbank Centre for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. She works between ‘mainstream’ and disability arts and culture, and is a Fellow of Freie University’s International Research Centre, Interweaving Performance Cultures in Berlin, where she is reflecting on her work. She is currently completing her first novel, and working on a commission from Sherman Cymru, Forest Forge, and Little Brother Productions. Woman of Flowers tours nationally in 2014, and The 9 Fridas has its Mandarin premiere at Taipei’s International Theatre Festival in August 2014.

Phillip Zarrilli is internationally known as a director, actor, and actor-trainer. He is the founding Artistic Director of The Llanarth Group (2000). He directed the premiere of Kaite O’Reilly’s critically acclaimed The Almond and the Seahorse for Sherman Cymru.

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