Let’s Talk about Disability Theater

25 Feb

So let’s talk about disabilities in theater. Yes it is important to educate our younger audiences. yeah we can do so without treating them like they are clueless. I want to see Addy and Uno today. I left this production bewildered. One part of me was grateful that they are having the discussion in the first place, but the other part of me was somewhat disappointed. Children are much smarter than we give them credit for and often and we are talking down to them.

It’s one thing to show characters on stage who are disabled and fighting for what they want. But it’s quite another to have characters who are solely defined by their disability. And sadly that’s what happened today. As a disabled person myself, I want children to recognize that people with disabilities are just like them. This production tries to do that, but when everything is so on the nose it makes it hard to have any nuances and give rich character development. These are the elements of good theater and children deserve no less. In fact throughout my years as an educator and artist, I have founds children to be some of the most astute audience members ever.

in the 21st century, I think it’s high time to see people with disabilities portrayed in a realistic light rather than mere stereotypes. While I applaud the  intentions and efforts of this show, it is almost like a movie of the week after school special. I believe its intended to be an educationally profound piece of theatre. I wonder if anyone on the production team had to disability themselves? The characters did not ring true and were cartoonish. It tried to “beat us over the head” with its message that bullying is bad and being different is OK. We get this standpoint in the first five minutes. Then the show has no where to go. We, I include myself as a member of the disabled  community, are not just heroes and victims. But we can be bullies and villains. We come in all shapes and forms and deserve to be represented that way. Children need to see us like everybody else, not preached down to about how we “should” be viewed.

YES, bullying and disabilities should be talked about and have the potential to make for gripping pieces of theater. Unfortunately, Addy and Uno, as cute as these puppets are, fail to ring true.  Am I being a little harsh?  Maybe, but people with disabilities are fighting every day to be seen as fully fleshed-out living human beings. Our younger audience members know when they are being talked down to. Children’s Theater can be a great vehicle for change and education, but it must be done so in a more subtle yet truthful manner. We need a more honest approach to presenting this to the public or else we get put in a box and no one likes that!

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