Performance Research Forum presents: Dr Leslie Dunn's on 'Shakespearean Disability Theatre'. Event is followed by drinks and a discussion with the audience.
Shakespearean Disability Theatre
Theater historian Kirsty Johnston defines disability theater as a part of the disability arts and culture movement, in which disabled artists fight against stereotypes and disability metaphors by creating “new ways to put disability on stage.” Johnston writes of the “mutual revitalizing power found in the encounter between modern drama and disability artists.” In this talk I argue that the same can be said for Shakespeare. Some questions that have animated my own recent research and writing are: How have Deaf and disabled actors created new ways to put Shakespeare on stage? How can Shakespeare productions challenge stereotypes of disability, even as some plays have been vehicles for their perpetuation? What might it mean to make Shakespearean disability theater? After describing some of the obstacles to access for Deaf and disabled Shakespearean actors, I will consider three possibilities for inclusion: playing roles that are textually marked as disabled; playing non-disabled roles in mainstream productions; and adapting Shakespeare so as to bring both disabled actors and disability awareness to the center of the theater-making process. To explore these possibilities I will focus on recent performances of Richard III by disabled actors, the work of Deaf actor Howie Seago with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Storme Toolis’s Redefining Juliet.
Leslie Dunn is Professor of English at Vassar College (New York, USA), where she also teaches in the Women’s Studies, Medieval/Renaissance Studies, and Media Studies programs. She has published articles and book chapters on women singers in Shakespeare, women and music in early modern England, and the musical afterlife of Queen Elizabeth I. She co-edited two interdisciplinary collections, Embodied Voices: Representing Female Vocality in Western Culture and Gender and Song in Early Modern England, and was the guest editor of a special issue of Upstart Crow, “Shakespearean Hearing.” She is currently editing Performing Disability in Early Modern English Drama (forthcoming from Palgrave) and researching contemporary Shakespeare performances by disabled actors.
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