(Disability Visibility is made possible by the MetLife/TCG A-Ha! Program.)
The Mixed Blood Theatre seeks an improvement in the relationship between the American theatre and disability. There is a canon of top-of-the-field theatrical literature that is under-produced, a talent pool that is underutilized and underemployed, and potential audiences in large numbers in every market in the U.S.
In an effort to spur change, Mixed Blood solicited 40 theatre professionals to share plays that they feel best speak to disability in two ways: plays with theme or content on disability and/or plays with characters with disabilities. Over half of those polled self-identify as people with disabilities. In addition, medical and disability specialists were consulted and provided extensive categorization of professionally recognized disabilities that were crystalized to fewer, broader umbrellas.
Mixed Blood staff read every nominated play, and subsequently Mixed Blood’s Artistic Director Jack Reuler, with the assistance of Playwright-In-Residence Aditi Brennan Kapil, curated a select list of scripts for consideration by artistic directors, producers, and decision-makers. (It is worth mentioning that there were many great plays proposed for this collection that simply could not be produced with actors with the script’s characters’ disabilities, and thus did not make the list.) The selected plays are smart, funny, compelling, revelatory, diverse in style and content, and we sincerely hope to see a number of theatres embark on explorations that result in incredible theatre, and also potentially (re)define the relationship that an arts organization may have with disability communities.
$5000 is available to professional theatres that commit to produce one of these plays with the proviso that theatre artists with disabilities be employed in roles of characters with disabilities. As of this launch, funds are available for three professional not-for-profit theatres to commit to producing a play on this list (with appropriate hiring). The funds will be distributed on opening nights of those productions. If you wish to discuss any of the plays on this list, please feel free to contact Mixed Blood’s artistic staff, who have very much enjoyed reading all the nominations and are huge fans and advocates of the work.
And finally, this list is in no way a complete representation of all the amazing work by and about people with disabilities, and it does not try to be. It is a small initial step toward instigating change, a very small step. Please join in making the next step a larger one.
(Our thanks to those solicited for nominations: Claudia Alick, Brian Balcom, Ilana Brownstein, Christine Bruno, Polly Carl, Aaron Carter, Jeremy Cohen, Michael Dixon, Jason Dorwort, John Clinton Eisner, Liz Engelman, Liz Frankel, Wendy Goldberg, David Herrell, Anita Hollander, Morgan Jenness, D.J. Kurs, Regan Linton, John Mahon, Joy Meads, Chuck Mee, Kelly Miller, Emily Morse, Greg Mozgala, Susan Nussbaum, Amrita Ramanan, Ralph Remington, Jack Reuler, Jenny Sealey, Christopher Shinn, Sandy Shinner, Ann Stocking, Seema Sueko, Mike Thornton, Eric Ting, Mark Valdez, Alexandria Wailes, and Les Waters.)
A BRIEF LIST OF ELIGIBLE PLAYS BY & ABOUT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES (click on the title for script and licensing information)
Plays you may not know, but you should:
AN ACCIDENT by Lydia Stryk (Physical– Spinal Cord Injury)
“fierce, funny, and surprisingly uplifting tour de force for two actors”-nominator
BLUR by Melanie Marnich (Blind/Vision Impaired)
“lovely, poetic, and humorous” –nominator
COLOSSAL by Andrew Hinderaker (Physical– Spinal Cord Injury)
“wonderful, epic sized-play, about love and loss” –nominator
DISTRACTED by Lisa Loomer (ADHD)
“Immersed in a world wrought with sensory overload, Lisa Loomer’s humor and pathos reveals the complexity of ADHD”-nominator
GOOD DANCER by Emily Chaddick Weiss (Physical- Cerebral Palsy)
“a romantic comedy that takes on issues of race and disability” –nominator
HISTORY OF BOWLING by Mike Ervin (Blind/Deaf, Physical, Invisible)
“a sly and funny play, challenges preconceptions” –nominator
LOVE PERSON by Aditi Brennan Kapil (Deaf)
“a gorgeous exploration of the confounding language of love” –nominator
PEELING by Kaite O’Reilly (Deaf, Physical, Invisible)
“gorgeous, theatrical, quietly ground-breaking” –nominator
SOMEDAY by Julie Marie Myatt (Physical- Cerebral Palsy)
“universal issues of infertility and reproductive rights” –nominator
SOOT AND SPIT by Charles Mee (Deaf, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome)
“poetic, contemplative, and celebratory” –nominator
SWEET NOTHING IN MY EAR by Stephen Sachs (Deaf)
“…beautifully embraces deaf culture as a culture with its own language and traditions and not a disability”
Plays by John Belluso earned a category of their own:
GRETTY GOOD TIME (Physical)
“polio-survivors in mid-1950’s. It is simply brilliant” -nominator
“a lovely and romantic 2-hander” -nominator
THE BODY OF BOURNE (Physical)
“poetic, complex, and life-affirming” -nominator
THE RULES OF CHARITY (Physical- Cerebral Palsy)
“profound and intelligent” -nominator
Plays you’ve probably heard of, worth exploring in collaboration with actors with disabilities:
CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD by Mark Medoff (Deaf)
FIFTH OF JULY by Lanford Wilson (Physical)
NEXT TO NORMAL by Kitt/Yorkey (Mental Health)
THE BOYS NEXT DOOR by Tom Griffin (Developmental, Mental Health)
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAN by Martin McDonagh (Physical- Cerebral Palsy)
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME by Simon Stephens (Autism Spectrum Disorder)
THE NORMAL HEART by Larry Kramer (Physical)
Plays INELIGIBLE for funding that we can’t resist mentioning:
We’d love to see these two pieces performed by their creators…
STILL STANDING by playwright/performer Anita Hollander (Physical)
WEIGHTS by playwright/performer Lynn Manning (Blind)
These two plays by John Belluso do not contain characters with disabilities, but are well worth a read…
A NERVOUS SMILE
TO APPLY FOR FUNDING
We hope you consider any /all of these plays for your upcoming season(s). To apply for funding, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org containing the following information:
Name of theatre:
Contact person including contact information:
Indicate whether or not you operate under an AEA contract:
Your play selection from the list above:
A projected timeline for the project:
Your commitment to working with theatre artists with disabilities in the context of this project:
Anything else you think we should know:
At this time we have funding for 3 productions, all submissions received by the deadline of July 31, 2015 will be considered. If selected, the funding will be released on opening night of the selected productions.
Jack Reuler & Aditi Brennan Kapil
Aditi Brennan Kapil is a writer, actress, and director, of Bulgarian and Indian descent. She was raised in Sweden, and resides in Minneapolis, MN, and her work has been produced nationally to critical acclaim.
Her play Love Person, a four-part love story in Sanskrit, ASL and English, was developed during a Many Voices residency at the Playwrights’ Center, work-shopped at the Lark Play Development Center in NY, and selected for reading at the National New Play Network (NNPN) conference 2006. Love Person was produced in a NNPN rolling world premiere at Mixed Blood Theatre (MN), Marin Theater (CA), and Phoenix Theatre (IN), in the 2007/08 season. In 2008/09 it was produced at Live Girls! Theatre in Seattle, Alley Repertory Theatre in Boise, and Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago. Love Person received the Stavis Playwriting Award in 2009.
Her play Agnes Under The Big Top, a tall tale was selected as a 2009 Distinguished New Play Development Project by the NEA New Play Development Program hosted by Arena Stage, and was developed by the Lark Play Development Center (NY), Mixed Blood Theatre (MN), InterAct Theatre (PA), the Playwrights’ Center (MN), and the Rhodope International Theater Laboratory (Bulgaria). Agnes Under the Big Top premiered at Mixed Blood Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre (CT) in 2011, and Borderlands Theater (AZ) in 2012 in a NNPN rolling world premiere.
Aditi’s newest work, the Displaced Hindu Gods trilogy, consists of Brahman/i, a one-hijra stand-up comedy show, The Chronicles of Kalki, and Shiv. The plays, based on the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, premiered in repertory at Mixed Blood Theatre in October 2013. Brahman/i and The Chronicles of Kalki received an unprecedented double nomination for the James Tait Black Prize, University of Edinburgh, UK.
Aditi is currently working on commissions with Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and South Coast Repertory Theatre, and is the Playwright-in-Residence at Mixed Blood Theatre, an Artistic Associate at Park Square Theatre, a McKnight Fellow & Core Writer at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, and a Resident Playwright at New Dramatists.
Jack Reuler founded the Mixed Blood Theatre Company at the age of 22 and has served as its Artistic Director for 38 years. Mixed Blood is dedicated to the spirit of Dr. King’s dream, promoting successful pluralism using theatre as a vehicle for artistry, entertainment, education, and effecting social change. To that end he has produced and directed 147 world premieres and hundreds of comedies, musicals, extravaganzas, and chamber theatre pieces.
In 2010 Theatre Communications group presented Jack with its Peter Zeisler Award, for exemplifying pioneering practices in theatre, dedication to the freedom of expression, and for being unafraid to take risks in the advancement of the art form. Jack has received the Ordway’s Sally Award for Vision, Actors’ Equity’s Spirit Award, and the St. Paul Foundation named him a Facing Race Ambassador. He was presented with the Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement and was named a Local Legend by the United Negro College Fund. He was presented with the Met Life Access Award on behalf of Mixed Blood for the theatre’s disability initiatives.
Jack was named to Esquire magazine’s first “Register of People Under Forty Who Are Changing America.” He has also received Actors’ Equity’s first Rosetta LeNoire Award for “celebrating the universality of the human experience on the American stage,” Macalester College’s Distinguished Citizen Award, The City’s Minneapolis Award, and Minneapolis Community College’s Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award.
Jack has received a Bachelor of Arts and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Pomona College and Macalester College. He is a founder and currently Vice President of the National New Play Network and Vice President of Theatre L’Homme Dieu in Alexandria, MN.
The intent of the MetLife/TCG A-ha! Program is to enable theatres to dare to try new approaches to problem-solving artistic, managerial, production and/or technological challenges–to try things the organization doesn’t and couldn’t normally do. To learn more about the program, click here.