Every Inclusionista comes to their passion through a different doorway. You don’t practice inclusion by itself; you practice it in a community context. I entered this world through the stage door. I felt like I made an important discovery when I realized that creating theater productions with young people both with and without disabilities made the experience better for the artists and for the audience. The purpose of the arts is to help us understand the world around us. And yet, we don’t see many stories told from a disability lens. When there is a character with a disability, that role is most often (95% of the time according to a report by the Ruderman Family Foundation) portrayed by a non-disabled actor.
There is a growing awareness of the need for more disability inclusion in the world of professional theater, and I am here for it. Over the past few years, theaters have been reaching out to new audiences through programs like sensory-friendly performances and touch tours. However, there is a need for something much more comprehensive. When I saw that a new organization would be raising the bar for professional theaters, I was excited. The National Disability Theatre launches this month and kicks off their year-long residency with a regional theater right in my backyard, the La Jolla Playhouse.
In July, Talleri McRae and Mickey Rowe, the founders of the NDT, came to our KIT Summer Intensive to tell us about their vision. We were all blown away. The changes they seek are long overdue. The theater world they will create will have far-reaching benefits. It will employ more people with disabilities, it will broaden storytelling, and it will give more people a chance to see their lives represented. Inclusion can make the theater better for everyone.
If you are as excited as I am, you might want to help the National Disability Theater start on a solid foundation of support. They have a Go Fund Me page to support their launch and donations of any size are welcome. Let’s support the kind of theater we want to see.