SQ4: Should an adult actor with a learning disability have a say in choosing a play, or does he/she share that responsibility with a parent/guardian who knows what his or her child is able to understand and what he or she is not?

Deciding what a theatre group will perform is difficult and must address numerous considerations – how many actors, what roles they are suitable for, what interests them and what the director is interested in, what is currently happening in society, etc. What is the best way for us to involve artists who have learning disabilities in this process?

Audience discussion after the Who Am I? performance, CZ:

AvatarThe freedom of choice among the actors is definitely there. Some level of sensitivity is needed, of course, I can imagine a situation, for example, where a play is based on a theme that someone can find uncomfortable. But because the actors and directors know each other, I would assume that this situation wouldn’t arise, and if it would, both groups would be able to deal with it accordingly.
woman 1

AvatarI think that the first impulse comes from the director and then it’s about them working together with the actors to make changes and shape it to everyone’s liking.
woman 2

AvatarIf a difficult theme gets selected and it is done well, it might even have a therapeutic effect, now that I think about it.
woman 1

AvatarThe way I see it, the kids with DS have an advantage in that they have way fewer problems to deal with than us, and if they do have them, they deal with them right at that moment and they quickly pass. Because I can see the actors from the other point of view, I would say that it is the director who comes up with a topic and the actors set boundaries within it to establish what is and isn’t possible. I think that they will be able to come up with themes, but probably not yet though.
Grandfather of an actress with DS from the Aldente theatre
AvatarIt is my opinion that even something like Antigone or The Golden Spinning Wheel might be brought up by the actors and then it is the director, who makes it work. The kids can read about the plays in school or just hear someone talking about them and it piques their interest. I think the actors’ opinions matter a lot and I think they are being listened to there.
woman 3
AvatarShe feels inspired by the natural defiance of some of the actors. It means that if they do not want to continue rehearsing, they’ll just lie down on the stage and do nothing. They are very honest about these things. Some other actors without a disability would leave and then gossip about it at some café. They’ll just tell us, however. Even if it’s bad, they will. I don’t want to do that.
An actress from Aldente theatre


Monologue section:

I think there is something very interesting about the world of performance with people with a learning disability. Some companies, like us, say: ‘You have a learning disability, but you are a creative person, your view is as valuable as mine’. How do we do democracy? Maybe not democracy, but it certainly is a collaboration.director of the Blue Apple Theatre 1, UK

So, I do not give them a script, I don’t tell them what we’re doing. I don’t even share with them all of my ideas initially because I want to see what comes from them with just the theme. So, I normally give a theme or a little nugget of an idea and then I see what comes back and usually what I get back changes my idea for the better. And then we devise it, we create it completely together. So, I like to say I’m a director of ideas rather than a director in the sense of telling them what to do. I direct their thoughts and make it into a piece they play.director of the Blue Apple Theatre 2, UK

When we were rehearsing Antigone, all of the actors were thinking about different themes. It was during Covid, so for me, for example, there was a strong theme of feminism there, since I had to do all of the housework and still manage to get work done. And I have 4 children. But Martin, who plays Haemon, said: “No, Sophocles wrote it wrong, it will end with a wedding.” We started rehearsing in November, but the pandemic pushed the premiere to June so we thought that we will make him change his mind until then. But we couldn’t. That was his theme. Or Hanička – she plays Ismene, who is usually described as a weak character as opposed to the strong Antigone. But for us, Hanička is like a saint, a being from another world and we fully trust her true emotions. She says that Antigone is about the loving relationship between the two sisters and also between Haemon and Antigone… For me and many others, the play is about politics, democracy, and the inability to make the right choices. For our actors though, the themes are very different.director of the Aldente Theatre

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