Over the years, we've worked with a variety of artists and theatres to share the voices of those impacted by disabilities.
Programs for and by people with disabilities
Touretteshero's Backstage in Biscuit Land
From May-June 2016, the British Council supported the North American tour of Backstage in Biscuit Land, a unique glimpse into the life of an artist with Tourette Syndrome.
Combining storytelling, comedy and puppetry, Backstage in Biscuit Land offers an intimate glimpse into Jess Thom’s unique perspective as an artist and woman with Tourette Syndrome. As a result of her tics, Thom says 'biscuit' 16,000 times a day.
Thom loved the theatre as a child, but the intensity of her tics made it increasingly difficult to attend, a situation that culminated three years ago when she was asked to sit in isolation during a performance. Instead of never returning to the theatre, Thom found the only seat in the house she wouldn’t be asked to leave: the stage. Playful and laugh-out-loud funny, Backstage in Biscuit Land is a case in point that making theatre inclusive makes it better.
The British Council was pleased to support CripFest, conceived and curated by British artist Mat Fraser, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 25, 2015, at BAM Fisher in New York City.
Over the last 25 years since the ADA was passed, I’ve watched disabled artists mature, attain fantastic professional heights of accomplishment, and soar with their work creating brilliant, often game-changing art. Why then in mainstream arts productions, do we mostly only see portrayals of disability that don't reflect this reality? Still using the outmoded and damaging medical or charity models of disability that prevail on film and TV, still too often played by non-disabled actors, still infused with the heroic, non-threatening “inspiration porn” that flies in the face of our true reality, and still with the Oscars! 'Inspiration Porn' is the term coined by Disability media activist Stella Young (RIP), where she derided being found inspirational for “being able to remember her name and getting up in the morning”. Stella's talk on this is one of the several seminal video pieces included in the CripFest visual arts program.
However, in that time many incredible disabled artists & their creative partners have made work, careers, reputations and sometimes waves producing work that shows our reality and thus all of society, refusing to accept the stubbornly outmoded & negative media imaging of disabled people, but instead remould our understanding of Disability in our society, fashion it into the vibrant, exciting, and inclusive world that we strive to live in, as we continue to critique, laugh at, and highlight the Disability experience. From Hip Hop dance, theatre, striptease, cabaret, fine art and performance art, comes this assured movement of creative artists who are reshaping the notion of disability in our world. So, come along and celebrate it with us...at CRIPFEST!
-- Mat Fraser, CripFest curator
Beauty and the Beast and Access All Areas
What do you get when a born freak, a former beauty queen and an award-winning maverick director tell the true story of Beauty and the Beast?
Mat Fraser, well-known British disabled actor and writer, Julie Atlas Muz, American art star and a Miss Exotic World/Miss Coney Island, and Phelim McDermott, artistic director of Improbable, conspired to make an adult fairytale like no other: a magical sexual journey into real and fabled romance between beastly and beautiful characters.
The British Council partnered with Live Art Development Agency for Access All Areas NYC, a free, day-long event looking at some of the radical approaches to representations of disability being taken by contemporary performance artists, particularly in the UK.
'Access All Areas (NYC Edition)' featured durational performance-installations by UK artists Noemi Lakmaier and Martin O'Brien; live action by Aaron Williamson and Leroy Franklin Moore Jnr.; and provocative debate on the cultural impact of disabled artists by UK and US practitioners including Mat Fraser, Sunaura Taylor, Carrie Sandahl, Sandie Yi,and Amanda Cachia. There were also screenings of UK-based artists, films and performance documentation including work by Bobby Baker, Katherine Araniello, the Disabled-Avant Garde, Brian Lobel, and others; and a bibliotheque of essential books and DVDs drawn from LADA's Study Room.
The NYC Edition grew from Access All Areas, a critically-acclaimed public event and publication produced by the Live Art Development Agency in the UK in 2011 and 2012 as part of 'Restock, Rethink, Reflect Two' on Live Art and Disability. The program came to New York at the invitation of the British Council, to complement Abron's presentation of Improbable Theatre's 'Beauty and the Beast'.
Relaxed Performance Initiative
Relaxed Performance is a specially designated performance intended to attract and accommodate a range of people who might not otherwise be able to comply with traditional theatre etiquette. There is a relaxed attitude to noise, movement, and small changes to the sound levels and some lighting effects in the show. You might say, 'the opposite of the quiet carriage on the train'.
It includes people:
- On the Autism spectrum
- Those who make involuntary noises or movements
- Learning disabilities
- Mixed abilities or ages
- Those who prefer a less formal environment
- With age-related impairments
Theatres can either host a training for their staff or choose to serve as a regional hub to other theatres and invite fellow presenters to join the training. For any additional inquiries or to book a training, please contact us.