What is laughter and what is ridicule? Do you see the distinction differently during a performance by actors with a learning disability compared with a performance in a normal theatre? Audience discussion after Stand Up Down performance, CZ The question is, what are we laughing at? Because – and I am no playwright – we are really laughing at the other person. But in this particular context, it is uncomfortable for me to laugh at them. You would feel guilty, laughing… man 1 But I do not personify anything they say, it’s a description of a situation or a joke, what they say is not what they are. I am not laughing at them, but at what they’re saying. man 2 I for one really enjoyed Marťa’s (an actress with DS) performance and I am pretty sure I didn’t laugh at her. When the dialogue was long, she said aloud “My turn!” and created these funny but honest situations, to which a person like me, who was brought up with certain rules, couldn’t respond like that. Even though there could be countless times, when I would like to scream “Quiet, now it’s my turn! I want to be noticed too!” I didn’t feel like I was laughing at her, quite the opposite. I found it funny that she was governing the situation and other people had to somehow deal with that. The host, for example. And I think I didn’t laugh at them, but more at the situations they were creating with their honesty. Non-disabled actress from the Aldente theatre I have seen it many times, and I mean, Marťa is my daughter, so at first I was very ashamed of what she was doing, I didn’t even want to be here. And now, when I have seen it ten, or even more times, I just laugh at it. I have freed myself from this restraint, but it was in me at the beginning. I just had these rules in me: “She can’t be doing that!” Mum of an actress with DS from the Aldente theatre Monologue section: This topic really resonated with me, although I didn’t feel that there was any form of ridicule coming from the audience – and me as a part of it. But the question was still there. The things that we find funny, things that I even perceive as intentional humour, might have not been meant as such by the actors, right? Or it might have? Here I see the director, his team – everyone involved in the production, having the biggest impact. They know the actors and the specifics of their differences… Nice words! I’ve been fighting with the appropriate terms for a while. But like I said, they should make sure that the actors don’t end up in situations they might be ridiculed for – that could hurt them. grammar school teacher, CZ The actor with DS that plays Creon has stuck to me a lot, I really like him. I don’t dwell too much on the disability though, he’s an actor with certain capabilities and I don’t think about laughing at something that stems from his disability. For example, in the play “Who am I”, certain things can happen unexpectedly and you’ll just laugh because it’s so pure and spontaneous. Basically, something that happens outside of the character’s script. I really enjoy it, but it’s not like I am laughing… I don’t find it bad – even in this camp (with disabled people) that I attend – to laugh about knowing who has awoken just based on their screams. If there is love and respect behind it, it’s alright. We laugh at each other as well. But it is not to ridicule, that would be, in my opinion, not accepting where you are and who you see there. However, if you accept who these people are, then laughing is okay. I’m not sure if this is the appropriate stance… but ridicule to me is something very negative. Laughing isn’t. theatre studies student, CZ More Socratic questions: SQ1: Is attending a theatre performance by actors with learning disabilities a quest for artistic experience or another form of charitable support for them? SQ2: Is it okay for a serious character (such as Hamlet) to be played by an actor with a learning disability? Is it okay for a non-disabled actor to play a character who has a disability? SQ3: Does an actor’s disability enable them to address important human and social issues on stage? 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? SQ6: Is theatre of actors who have a learning disability art or therapy? And if therapy, then for whom? SQ7: Is it okay for an actor with a learning disability to act on stage alongside a professional non-disabled actor? Does it deliver a complete performance? SQ8: Can we apply the same criteria when evaluating performances of actors with a learning disability as we would in the critique of any other performance? SQ9: Should the entry requirements for theatres and theatre schools be designed to allow, for example, people with Down syndrome to fulfil the admission criteria?