(no audio) thanks to the vineyard theaterwhich we're in right now. they've been so wonderfuland accommodating. (applause) and last but certainly not least,our fabulous friends at playbill, and sarah jane from playbillis here tonight. this is actually our third yearof four day panel events. for information on the past two years,you can-- and information on the rest of the week,
you can go to playbill.com/identityweek there's a lot of great information there,including a whole companion series about this week in particular. and we have-- tonight was writtenabout mccarter theater and their relaxed performances,which is a really fascinating story, so i would recommend you check it out. a few house keeping thingsbefore we get started. cell phones, silence thembut please do not turn them off, because we love live tweeting.
i'm going to be sitting in the backdoing that myself. for live tweeting,first very important, wifi, if you need it, especially if you'rein this lower half, you might need that. yeah! vt2 is the network. and "veneered", all lowercaseis the password that you should use. use #identityweek obviously,since it's #identity week. but also tag us @mrsamuelfrench.
and i'm proud to saybecause of identity week, we are switching our handle next weekfrom mr samuel french to samuel french nyc. so be on the look out for that.(laughs) also one final note,because of tonight-- and this is-- we're trying to do thisthroughout the week, people tend to go up on that second level afterwards to talk to the panelists;
we want to make an aimto go out this way and to go into the lower lobby tonight. so if you'd like to chatwith the panelists or the audience members,stick around there for a little bit before we haveto close up shop. and come back for tomorrow night. we have george sivuyile, larry kramer,joy gresham, dr sangay, a lot of fabulous people,so join us tomorrow and have fun. thank you, oh--and i'd like to introduce
our moderator, diep tran. she's the associate editorof american theater magazine, and she's going to take it from here,thank you! (diep) hi. i'm normallyon the journalistic side as an invisible writer,so i'm never on stage. this is very new for me.(laughter) so i'm very happy to be here,i'm excited for the conversation, so let's get started. please bring out the panel.
and for our audiences,can each of you introduce yourself. - (christine) where do you want to start?- (diep) i'll start with you, christine. hi i'm christine bruno,and i'm an actor and disability advocateat alliance for inclusion in the arts. hi i'm laura kirk, i'm the directorof audience services at yale repertory theaterin the school of drama. hi i'm phil dollman,i'm a playwright and also managerof accessibility programs for the theater development fund.
and hello, i'm alexandria wales,i'm an actor, choreographer, director, woman of many hats,as well as advocate and activist. (laughs) (diep) to start tonight's discussion,i wanted to first talk about onstage representation. in the past few seasons, we've seen quite a number of high profilerepresentation of characters with disabilities on stage on broadway, such as deaf west's production,of "spring awakening"
and "a curious incidentof the dog in the night-time." and so, have the four of you-- has this increasein these representations, has it been an anomaly,in your experience? (panel laughs) (alexandria) well i think (signs),it ebbs and flows; it comes and goes, i think that right now, i'm noticingthere's more of social media which gives a moreconsistent conversation, there's more of a chatter,
people are awareand they're intrigued by it. whereas in the past,we didn't have twitter, we didn't have facebookand so many extra ways of communicating that can reach a more broad audiencesimultaneously. so one thing, i think that i'm alsorepresenting deaf west tonight. so from my experience, what i think is uniqueabout "spring awakening," is that there were no deaf charactersper say in the show. it was about the concept of communicationand miscommunication.
and the levels of interactionamongst people. deaf west firmly believes that you have a productionwith the spoken language and the signed languageand they select actors who want to work togetherand that then became what we experienced herewith "spring awakening." (christine) i would say that--i'm just going to speak for a second about the two examples you gave,are two very different exmaples because deaf west productionfeatured deaf actors
and the first ever actorwho uses a wheelchair on broadway. first ever! so for those of you who didn't know that,that's like a huge thing. and then then the other examplethat you gave "curious incident," while that piece dealt with issuesof disability, that actor was not a disabled actorwhich i think is of central importance to what we're talking about tonight. and in the 2013/14 season on broadway, there were actuallyseven plays on broadway
that featured characters with disabilitiesand not one of them was played by an actor with a disability,either as a principle or an understudy. so if you're askingto address your question about, "is it an anomaly?" right now, i would say yes. but i agree with alexandriathat i think there's a sea change coming, because i think that people,because of technology, are voicing their opinions moreand their preferences more, and i think the industryis listening.
(phil) i also think it stemsfrom the education system. so we're seeing younger artistswith disability in mind, because they were exposed to itgrowing up, in a way that artists 50 years agomaybe weren't. so individuals with disabilitieswere in separate classrooms, now there's a much moreinclusive environment in our many educational systems,i won't speak for all of them. so i know for myself growing up, i was around individualswith disabilities all the time,
and that led to me as a playwright,having them in my mind for characters. and then, what's the next step is,opening your mind one step further to see, "oh, there are so manytremendous actors with disabilities to play those roles." so, it's a movement. (laura) yeah and also,with the educational aspect, there's another generationof creators and artists that are coming forwardand looking to broadway
to be inspired. and with more of this happening now, that's going to becomea part of their work, as they move forward. (diep) christine you brought upsomething really good, which i wanted to talk more about, which is the issue of a cripped face, which is the phenomenonof a non-disabled actor playing a role of a characterwith a disability.
and so can you speak moreto why is it an issue for the community. (christine) sure. and so the termcripped face is-- it's more widely usedthan it ever has been before, and i think when people started using it, there was a little bitof a hesitation to use it, because it is an "in your face" term. but we use it sort of,analogous to black face, or yellow face or brown face so that's why it's cripped face.
i think that it's so importantbecause people with disabilities-- we don't, as actors with disabilities,we so rarely get to play ourselves, let alone just the fabric of society, we so rarely getto play disabled characters, which is why i brought up that statisticsof the seven shows on broadway, because it's amazing that there were seven shows on broadway, that featured characterswith disabilities prominently. but super disappointingthat none of those shows featured actors with disabilities.
so because there's that feelingthat we get the push back when we say we like the practiceof cripped face discontinued, we get pushed back. well we're just acting.it's acting. isn't that what acting is? that we inhabit characteristicsthat are not our own. well yes that's true and that is acting. but the fact of the matter is that,as disabled people, and as disabled performers,there's such a history of exclusion,
that until that playing field is leveled; that excuse of, "it's just acting"doesn't work. (alexandria) yes, i concur with that. as an artist, well,there's always the excuse, "that's our job, we're actors,that's what we're supposed to do." and i say yes, but you must realizethat when you get away with representing the disabled body-- because it supersedes what i can,quote-on-quote, get away with. people who look at me and go,"aha, she's deaf and she has limitations."
so i've got an identity branded on me, but that's not all who i am. i'm an actor because i'm interestedin sharing the human experience, sharing the stories that are out there, and when someone decides for mewhat i can do, that push back is really intense. so it's a challenge because i wantto be considered equivalently with my hearing colleagues out there. i want to be respected.
and if i'm not viewed that way,then i'm going to have a problem. i won't be able to offer my art,and the world will be at a loss because they haven't metthe fantastic alexandria, no. but i'm saying that it is an experiencethat i can bring a different perspective, that otherwise, they would havenever had the opportunity of thinking that someone could have beenbrought in, or christine could be brought inall she could bring, and people need to be open to it. i think that not just as performersbut as creative people in the room.
i think that that's somethingthat we've lacked. i go into an auditionand i scan the sea of faces, i look at who's behind the tableand it bothers me a bit because there's no one therewho really knows the experience of living in this world this way,and that's okay, i mean, it's not okay if they'renot allowing you to go for an audition, but it's okay for them to makethe determination of whose there. it's kind of funny. (christine) i also think it's indicativeof all the other communities
that samuel french has been,that all these panels have been discussing this week. all of these issuesare probably for those of you who've been here more than just tonight, are hearing the same thingsover and over and over again. because we all deal-- all of uswho deal with a history of exclusion, are dealing with people,sort of appropriating our identities, and thinking that they know betterthan we do, what the lived experience is that we have.
regardless of our race, our ethnicity,our disability, and a lot of those things intersectwhich we haven't talked about either. (diep) and winning awards for it too. (christine) yeah.(laughs) (diep) and so we were talking backstageabout what can be-- what can playwrights do,what can directors do, to better or normalize a practiceof casting actors with disabilities in roles that don't requirea character with a disability. and so phil, you're a playwright,what are your thoughts
on just making this common. (phil) well i've got a great example. christine and i interactedearlier last fall, because we were leading upto a reading of a play i wrote. we had a character with autism. when the woman who wantedto produce the reading came to me and we talked about producingthis reading. the thing that i was adamant about was that that role be playedby an actor with autism.
they didn't necessarily need to be on that part of the spectrumthat i had written, but they needed to have livedpart of that experience. and luckily i had a very nice producer that was like, "yeah absolutely,how do we find them?" and we found christine's organization. but i think that's where it starts. if the artist demand--the art doesn't move forward, if the playwright says,"no no, i own this.
i've copy written this piece. it does not move forward if the actorplaying this role does not have this disability." we have too many tremendous actorsout there with disabilities. i mean, and i knowi'm in a unique position, in that i'm surrounded in that worldso i'm a little bit more in tune to it than other people. but my feed is filled with deaf westor john mcginty is out killing the game in hunchback outon the west coast right now.
the first deaf hunchback. there's just so manyactors with disabilities that the excuse-- there's reallyno room for excuses. and i think if playwrights,and again this is phil the playwright, not phil tdf. but if we stand there and say,"no, this piece has to have an actor with disability for it to be honest." because isn't that what all artists want? they want honest work.
so if we start from there,i think it can be pushed forward. (christine) i'll just say, in my roleas disability advocate, it's sometimes hard to advocate for thatwhen the writer is not committed to that, or when the produceris not committed to that. because if somebody in that capacity, in that real capacity of leadershipand decision-making for that project, is not committed to castingsomething authentically, it's hard for individualslike casting directors who are making leaps and boundsin terms of authentic casting
in wanting to fold actorswith disabilities into the regular rotationof people that they see for disability specificand non-disability specific roles. there's only so much they can do. so it does have to comefrom the playwrights, from the producers, from the directors. and until they start demanding it,it's going to be incremental progress. (diep) or until there'smore artistic directors such as the artistic director of deaf west,
who is committed to casting actorswith disabilities in classic roles that they would not otherwise be cast in. (phil) and we have a theaterlike that here in new york. new york deaf theaters is here as well. (christine) and also tbtb. (diep) laura you work at yaleand you were telling me about the training that you dofor students to help them become more awareof these issues. can you tell us more about that?
(laura) sure, so it was startedby my predecessor, and we are trying to carry it forwardas best as we can. but it's-- each class of new studentsthat come in, they go through an orientation week. and a part of their orientation weekis meeting with all their instructors, but also we havean accessibility awareness training. it's about an hour and a half in length. and we have guests that come inand speak to their experience. so we have guests-- this past yearwe've had two guest that were blind
and they came in and spokeabout the different ways that they experienced theater goingand also just everyday life. and we also had someone,an employee of yale university who came in to speak,who is deaf, and she related her experience as well. and it's an incredibly powerful momentfor the students, and it really starts to get themto see these people as people, and part of the art communityand part of their audience. and we speak about customer service,we speak about facilities
and the things that we're trying to dowith out facilities to bring them up to standard. yale's a pretty old (laughs) university,so the buildings are a challenge. but they do get this trainingtheir first year and it is spread throughout their time. so as designers move frowardto design a set in a flexible space, they are also consideringthe seating and how that is created and where is there room for everyone? (christine) what about the stages?
are they considering thatin their design as well? (laura) they are and...they are!(laughs) i'd like to say that everybody is,but i can't speak to that just yet. (christine) but that intentionality,is that part of the program or are you mostly focuson audiences? (laura) no it's a partof the conversation and our accessibility awareness training speaks a little bit more towardsthe patron that is attending. and actually even studentsand faculty members now that work with us,
but then in the classroom, our hopeis that that conversation continues. and it has. it's continued throughour playwrighting program. our playwright wrote a rolespecifically for a young actress that she had met. and so it is starting to see itselfin different areas in our program, which is exciting! (diep) how can casting directorsand directors be better aware of when they are casting,
to really open it upto actors with disabilities and to look at their unconscious biasabout what a role entails. (laura) erm... (christine) sorryi'm not a [novelist] (laughs). (diep) (laughs) you'll haveto go with opinions. (christine) i'll just say,well it's because throughout my work at the inclusion in the arts,we've been working very closely with the diversity committeeof the casting society of america, on this very thing.
and they came to us and said,you know what, we need to do better. we as csa need to do better, because we're not seeingtalent with disabilities, with any regularity. we're only bringing in peoplethat we might know because we know themfrom some other capacity, or we might have seen alexandria in a show so we'll specifically bring in alexandria. but we have no connectionto the community.
so we need to do better. so over the past two years,inclusion in the arts and csa partnered, and we had a huge townhall,there was a hundred actors and 10 casting directorsand a lot of casting assistants which is super importantbecause those are going to be the casting directors of tomorrow, in the room asking questionsof each other, realizing that we as actorshave a lot of misconceptions about what casting directors doand how much power they actually have.
and they have a lot of misconceptions about what it is we do;what it is we need, so that was a greatinformational tool for them. and then we had an entire dayof workshops were the csa devoted-- they donated their time and sawover 60 actors with disabilities in different disciplines. they auditioned workshopsand they put us on tape. and i'll say personally and i knowin my role as disability advocate, i've gone in several timesfor non-discripped roles
and for disability specific rolesto several different casting directors and i think it's a direct resultof their efforts. (laura) do you find that there'smore representation now for artists with disabilities,with agents and managers or...? - (laura) because they can really help- (christine) yeah, (laura) get you in the room-- (christine) and that waspart of the problem. that was part of the issue; was that most disabled actorsdon't have representation
so they weren't getting in the room. because obviously casting directorsneed to do these things quickly particularly for film and television. it's so quick that they just goto their top five agents and they call them and they say,"give me your five people that fit this." and so we're always left out of the mix. now a few of us have representation. that, i think, is the next step.
it's to get the agents on board, and that's a tough thingbecause it's their job right? so they want actors who are goingto work consistently that they can make money off of,and so it's a catch-22, because right now, the industry is not allowing most actors with disabilitiesto work on a consistent bases where it's lucrative enoughfor the agent to be willing to take us on. that was sort of a long windedanswer to your question (laughs). (laura) yeah.
(diep) i mean phil,when you've cased your shows, did you meet with any hesitancyamong casting directors and they had to tell you to go back? (phil) i mean, we workedjust through the producer. so we didn't work directlywith the casting director so i don't have that experience. i will say that there was some hesitancy with the other folksconnected to the production, with the simple question of,and it's ignorance of,
"well if he has autism,how's he going to learn the role?" and i chuckle at it but then i realize you don't have the samelife experience i have, you don't have the same education i have, you don't have friends with autismlike i have. so what seemed silly to me,was actually a legitimate question. so it turned into an education session. and i think if you're open to that and you're not put offby educating in the moment
rather than getting angryand getting fired up and realizing that it's ignorance and ignorance can be removedby education, then you can attack itthrough that way. that's not to say that everyone'sgoing to turn around and be open to it, but in my experience, as a playwright,they have. (alexandria) yes and this is interestingbecause when i go to an audition, i can sense a bit of resistance and i know that i'm not just hereto audition, i have to educate first
before i can auditionand i only have three minutes to do it all!(everybody laughs) and then i leave. so it's very intense. so you have to choose your battles,which one is it going to be? at a certain point i recognizedthat i can't do this and i need to educate or do i just auditionand hope for the best? and it's stickybecause i'm thinking about csa; i attended one of the workshopsand my experience was unique
because i had a moment of clarityand it was interesting that the casting people alsowho gave this workshop had a similar experience. i was comfortable,presenting my lines in asl, i could do some speakingand lip reading but i was trying to focus to comprehend on what was being spokenby my partner. so the reader was looking at the scriptand just speaking lines and i was already at a disadvantagetrying to lipread or fake
what not understandingon top of what was going on in the scene. and during the workshop,i was on camera workshop and i asked if i could ask someonein the room who already signed fluently if they could be the reader. and then my auditionwas night and day difference. it was beyond what we would have thoughtit would have been. and that's when they saw the difference,the comfort level, they saw more of who i am,what i have to offer, as opposed to being very stiltedand desperately trying to lipread.
like it was a favor for themand it was actually kind of painful the first time withoutsomeone who was a fluent signer. so having people in the room,then you think, "are they open to the idea of mecoming in with my own reader? having a reader in with me who's comfortableexpressing in my language, that's a step that i might have to take and see if they're willingto accept it or not." and here we are together,
we know that we needto consistently educate. if we have the tools, we may even needto bring our tools in with us too to help them get it, to recognize the differenceof what is potentially out there, if they actually see it. (christine) and some people--it's an interesting conundrum because some actors are not comfortableeducating for themselves. so alexandria and i happento be particularly comfortable because we wear a lot of hats
and that's just part of the fabricof who we are. but some people,some performers with disabilities, it's difficult for thembecause they don't know whether they are allowed to ask questions, or whether they are allowed to askfor a reasonable accommodation and so then that becomes a barrier to them doing the best work that they can do. and that can be hard and so i thinkwhat the csa is trying to do is a great thing because we're tryingto come together and meet in the middle
and realize that we all don'tknow everything; we both communities, have a lot to learnabout what the other community does. so that we are giving them what they wantand then they can cast us, and then that makes their job easier.(laughs) (diep) i just liked watchingspring awakening. it made me aware of just how much more--the initial residencies when you put these kind of actorsin this kind of role, and to see what the human body can doand what the voice can do. and so, what-- i guess for those of uswho are not indoctrinated
into this inclusive church, what is the value of being more inclusive and of putting these actorsinto these roles that may not have a disabilityenwrittened into the character? (alexadria) well i thinkas an audience member, when i go to watch a show,i rarely see somebody like me up there. so it's simply that,bringing more people who are alive, who are diverse,who are like me on the stage so that i can connect to themand say,"yes, yes, i get it on there!"
(christine) i also think that audiencesare a lot smarter than we give them credit for. "we", i'm talking as an industry. i think we put something in front of them,they go, "yes! wow!" (claps) but this isn't it, like the responseto spring awakening. by and large, the response was incredible. it may not have been anythingthat 90% of the audience would ever have envisionedbut you put it in front of them. if it's believable, and they careabout the story and the people,
the audience will buy it. if it doesn't ring true,the audience won't buy it. (diep) do you want to say something? (phil) nope, i'm just agreeing. (diep) so how do we better educateto let casting directors and directors and artistic directors know that this isn't a value taken away,but a value added and it's not going to be like a drainon the resources. (laura) i think that too oftenpeople see something different as a risk.
and they think that we just-- it is taking time to turnpeople's thinking around to realize that it's not a risk, we are just holding the mirrorup to the audience and reflecting what is in-- the people that are in the audience again, should be the peoplethat are reflected on stage. it's not a risk like you said,they're not-- the audience will go along for the ride,they want to.
(christine) yeah. i think it is a risk in that, everything that we puton the stage is a risk, right? - (laura) (laughs) of course.- (christine) it's just, every time we set foot on this stageis a risk of some kind. whether it's a financial risk,a creative risk, you're always risking that somebodyis going to say, "i don't like that, and i don't buy it and i'm not goingto spend money on it." but i don't think it's anymoreof a risk than that.
(alexandria) and one of my mantrasand it's kind of [dead] telling to what christine says,is "changing fear to curiosity." because the fear is the risk. and instead if people are just saying,"oh, but what if we could?" it opens it up to an entirenew experience, a whole new world perspective;just one little shift. and there's so much potential out there. i also think that when we seesomething on stage, we also have to thinkabout what's backstage too.
what about the lighting designer?what's going on? what's happening backstage? the part of that experience as well--because if we're seeing that in our collective consciousness,then it does feel more normal. and it does lead us on to producesomething on the stage, because the actors are the oneswho are being viewed but we are not even thinking aboutwhat is not being seen, what is happening backstage as well. so we need to be mindfulof that area as well.
(christine) and i think that comesfrom the theaters and organizations and educational institutions,in particular, having an intentionalinclusionary impulse. from the top down. from boards and staff and administrativeand artists and designers and [writers], it has to come from every sectorof the industry. that's the only way that i thinkthat substantive, long-lasting change is going to be able to be made,
otherwise, i think what we see sometimes,is there's like-- we'll just take any theater for example. if the artistic director hasa particular experience of disability, whether they have disabledfamily member or something, okay, so that's a bigagenda item for them, it's making sure disabilityis represented at their theater when they are the artistic director, and then they leave and go somewhere elseand that whole initiative dies with them. and so what i think we're trying to dois making it sustainable
through playwrights, through directors,through administrative staff, through boards, because if there'speople at every level saying, "hey wait a minute,disability is part of diversity too," because that's the biggest thingi think that we haven't said, which is really obvious. is that, disability gets left out of the conversation of diversityall the time. we talk about race,we talk about ethnicity, we talk about gender,we talk about gender identity,
we talk about sexuality,and we don't talk about disability, it's like, "oh yeah.." that's an after thought. no, disability is a culture,it is part of disability and actually is the only clubthat anybody can join at anytime. so...sorry i din't mean thatkind of silence! (laughter) (diep) well, thank you bothfor the really great segway to the backstage part of the conversation. i mean, do you think that there'ssomething within the way
that we're training artists, that we're not making it conduciveto potential artists with disabilities? (christine) that's a great question.yes. (diep) don't be shy. (diep) there's no wrong answers here. (phil) well i don't knowthat i can really speak to that. i neither have a disabilitynor did i go through my artist training as a playwright with anyonethat had a disability, which maybe speaks loudly--
- (christine) that does speak to it.- (phil) --to the thing, to the subject. i think that says a lot.i don't know... (christine) i have an mfa. i'm one of the lucky fewthat has an mfa in acting and directing from a conservatory program. and i also have a ba in acting. but most don't. because the access to trainingis really, really difficult. particularly with the professionaltraining programs in the country.
but particularly, in my experience,people with physical disabilities, immediately the onus is on usto prove how we are going to be able to get through the rigorousphysical aspects of the program. i've interviewed with a couple of places, that were, "well how are you goingto fulfill the movement requirement?" well no, you are the educatorand you're the head of this program so we're supposed to be working-- if you like what you seeand you see potential in me as an artist, then we're supposedto have that conversation together.
i'm not supposed to be the oneto give you the answers on how to teach me. i'm coming to you and i'm goingto pay you this huge sum of money that i'm probably nevergoing to pay off, because i'm going to schoolbeing an actor or a designer (laughter). so i'm looking to you for the answers. and so often, because nobodyhas any answers, they look to us for the answers and i find that the more that we talkabout education and it is changing,
i will say, from when i wentto graduate school. but i find it really interestingthat in an industry that supposedly embracesopeness and the creative spirit and innovation, when it comes to training,they're very rigid. particularly when it comes to disability. incredibly rigid. "no we have this and we've gotthe movement program, and we've got the dance,and we've got, you know,
and you're deaf and so that meansyou would have to have an interpreter with you all the time." we just, you know-- the lack of expansive thinkingreally gets me every time. and so if there's one thing i would sayto feed this pipeline, it would be that. that the education system, particularly in the professionaltraining programs, of which there are many nowaround the country, they need to be more openand more inclusive,
and realize that we have a lot to offer. (alexandria) and i would liketo piggyback on that, if you don't mind. i think well, from my experience,my biggest challenge with education is continuing my professionaltraining as an artist. look, i live here in new york, how many acting classes are there? it's ridiculous. and every time i think of goingto a class and all of a sudden the issue of interpreters arise,and who is going to pay the interpreters.
so i'm already a starving artist, so where am i going to find the moneyto pay for interpreters for my training. but i value the interpreters. they're my colleagues,they work hard as well. so it's a constant balancingof these questions. and i think it's very important,in training programs, especially at the collegiate level,to think about having budget already planned for access. so that you don't have to justfigure it out in the moment;
have it there when it's necessary. so instead of saying, forcing the personwith a disability to figure it out, then it becomes an inherentbarrier to access. so have it there before moving forward. and christine mentioned aboutbeing the only person in her program. i went to a program for danceand then after i had a bfa with dance, i transitioned into becoming a performer. but i was the only deaf personin my dance apartment. and the first year,i tried it without an interpreter,
because i thought it wouldjust be movement. and as we went along, i realizedthere was more than just that. i had become accustomed to dancingwithout an interpreter when i was young,but there's so much more, there was theory, pedagogy! and i was missing so muchwithout an interpreter. so for the remainder of my training,i did have an interpreter. and it was adjustment for the experience. and i think that it also lets everyonein the room be more aware.
i never tried to hidethe fact that i was deaf, i was just present as a deaf person,i was there and i wanted to become a better performer. i wasn't trying to say,"look at me, i'm a person with difference,i have the different card. i have the deaf card, right? i was just trying to do my joband be a student. so it was an interesting experiencebut i see that often with my peers, is that we need to have peerswho want to educate themselves,
want to improve themselves. but the mindset of the educationalcenters is the blocking for us. how are they going to provide solutions,is a big question. (christine) and also the assumptionby some educators, that we're less than. that simply by the nature of the factthat we have a disability, that we're not as talented. and that does happen a lot. and it's usually becausethe non-disabled person doesn't know how to dealwith whatever issue is happening
and someone has affected speech,then they just interpret that as a "well they're not going to work.we don't understand what they saying, therefor they're less than." rather than recognizing thatas implicit bias, which is what it is. (laura) and that should be a partof their conversation when educators are being hired. i was going to ask before, do you think that more can be donewith recruitment
so that programs that do have the abilityand do have the support-- i work in a place that hasincredible support, not just in our school,at this drama school, - but on the university level as well. - (christine) yes. (laura) so i'm really fortunate. but i'm sure there are other programsthat have the support and maybe they should be doingmore recruiting. (christine) absolutely.yeah. (alexandria) yes, definitely.
(christine) but that comesfrom the top down as well, you have to convince--in your specific situation (laughs), you have to convincethe head of the drama school that you should be matriculatingmore of students with disability - into, you know...- (laura) yeah. (christine) and in every situation,you have to start at the top. (diep) for like artisansand for backstage people, designers, do you think there's somethingwithin the way we structure the industry, with like 10 out of 12's and really vigorous hours
than make it really not friendlyto people with certain disabilities or...? - (christine) yeah!- (laura) yeah. and i don't think that it's with everybodybut for me, because i'm so used to it and i came up at a time prior to ada's so like i'm just used to doing what we do,which is, we do the 10 out of 12 and we do the 15,we rehearse for 10 hours and then you go and worka third shift job. but some people can't do that, and i think that's partof the reasonable accommodation,
so i think that a person shouldbe judged on their skill set and then if you thinkthat person's skill set is worthy of whateverproject you're doing, then you go, "okay, we're hiring you,how can we accommodate you?" (phil) and i think that's uniqueto each individual person-- (phil) as christine says,so i think people can avoid painting disabilitywith broad strokes right? just attack each individualas an individual and approach the situation as such.
so, some people can do 10 out of 12'sand that's great. there're plenty of actors that canhustle and do all that and their physical abilities allow that. some can't and you adjust,given a situation, but you need to go into it,individualizing the person, not painting with broad strokesor preconceived notions. (laura) right. and they'realready doing it. my daughter performed in a playand she was not allowed to work past a certain time.
and that was more because of her agebut they're already doing it. so it's not any different than that. (christine) you bring upa really interesting point because something that came upat our town hall, and alexandria might remember this was, there's a big-- particularly i think and please correct meif i'm wrong alexandria, that it's really hardon the deaf communities especially, because of the need for interpreters.
there's a lot of push backabout having interpreters for auditions and interpreters for rehearsalsand then because of the extra costs right? and so the interesting thing for us is that some of the deaf participantsin the room were saying this, that there's a lot of push back and we need the interpreters there,obviously, to do our best work. and one of the casting directorshad a light bulb moment, she said, "wait a minute,"she said, "i cast a lot of musicals, and we think nothing of hiringa pianist for the day for auditions
and the pianist plays for 90 secondsthen they sit around for 15 minutes until the next person comes in. and then they play for 90 seconds. and we think nothingof shelling that money out, why don't we have the same,why don't we afford the same to hiring interpreters." and i think that wasa real light bulb moment for the csa and also for the actors, yeah? (alexandria) yes, it was.
(diep) so back in january,there's this really interesting study from the new york cultural department, that said the diversity of peoplewho worked in new york city, in arts not for profits, don't matchthe diversity of new york city. something like 30% people of colorworking in "not for profits" versus 60% in new york city. and there's a part that said,"we ask about disability, but the numbers are too smallthat we didn't include it in the study." and so we're talking abouthow this shouldn't be on stage,
it should be in all areas of the theater. is there some way to makethe hiring process for these positions more inclusive? (christine) (laughs) i'm so sorry. on the department of cultural affairs,i will say, is working on that. - (diep) yeah.- (christine) because they recognize that is a huge problem. i mean, first of all, that surveydidn't even say anything about disability at firstbecause they thought
"well there was no dataso we'll just leave it out." and then we all said, "wait a minute.the fact that there's no data, you need to say there's no data,and then we need to address the issue." and so i will say thatthe department of cultural affairs is actively working on that. (phil) i think institutionally,it starts again, ground floor. so internships. who are you hiring for your internships? how do most people,get into their organization
or build up their resumeas they're in college or grad school. it's internships. so it's looking at a diverse hiring poolat the start and then it expands, and then the folks, anybody entering,is on an even playing field, so they all have the same resume, right? then the disabilityalmost becomes irrelevant and you're hiring the best person. (christine) but it's really importantto remember, particularly when you'retalking about disability,
and also i'm going to throw inintersectionality here as well, particularly for internships because if you look at the national rateof unemployment of non-disabled people, it's 20%. the national rate of unemploymentfor disabled people is 71%. so internships traditionallyare unpaid right? so who's going to be ableto afford to do an unpaid internship, let's be honest. it's going to bethe non-disabled white kids,
pretty much, right? and so i think when we thinkabout internships, we have to think about that as well. we have to make the internshipsattractive in a way for all of these underrepresentedcommunities otherwise it's going to be-- if we just say,"here are these internships, and you have to have a ba,and they don't pay anything, you're going to have to livein new york for a year but we're not going to pay you anything,
like who's going to apply for those?(laughs) - (time watch person) you have 15 minutes.- (diep) oh! (diep) do we want to open up to questionsor talk about audiences actually? (phil) we'll briefly touch on audiences. (diep) yes definitely! so phil you've talked--(panel laughs) you'll continue yeah,which has some great initiative in terms of, for audienceson the spectrum and also for deaf audiences,
and so can you talk a little bitabout those programs? (phil) yeah so tdf hasa wide variety of programs. we have our autism theater initiativewhich has been the program that's bringingthe most publicity recently, that presents four autism friendlyperformances a year. these are complete house buyouts. the entire program is geared towardsfamilies with autism. the tickets are sold to themat a discount, so we take a loss, a hefty losson each performance,
to bring the price down to at least 50% of what the broadway pricewould have been, to make it affordable for familieson the spectrum, or families affected by autism. in addition, we have captioned last year,i believe it was 67 broadway shows, open captioning, and that continuesto expand every year. three years ago, it was 35so it's growing astronomically. we also have programs for,we call it general tap. but it's orchestra seating for folkswith mobility or vision or hearing loss,
it seats you close to the stage,but in the orchestra. and we're really delving now into--with the unfortunate demise of hai, into audio description. that was thrown at us,[if they closed] our phones lit up, - and they said, "you do this now?"- (christine) you do now! (phil) we do now. and we're really startingto ease into that and to figure out what that world is. but there's so much more to do.
we're always trying to launchnew programs. we have a program called,"access for young audiences," that my colleague [leah diez]is point person on, but was founded by my boss,lisa carling. but it's for students with hearing lossand with vision loss, so it's five wednesday matneysof broadway shows that are sign interpretedand open captioned, and one performancethat is audio described. and we're trying to evolve thatto the next level
with a partnershipwith new york deaf theater, where older students in the program,can be mentored by deaf artists, and see that there's a career path;there's potential for career through that. so we have a ton of programsbut they're not perfect and we're always tryingto make them better and evolve them. we just started doing school workshopswith our autism theater initiative with the lion king. we got to make some great masks with some great kidswith autism in brooklyn.
it was fantastic! and talk about the artistryof puppetry and masks with them, which was great. that's the elevator pitchfor tdf accessibility programs. (diep) no it's great becauseit goes into what we're talking about at the beginning of this conversationabout these audiences are coming and they want to see peoplewho look like them on stage. it's all connected!(panel chuckles) (phil) it is. and they needto be able to experience it, right?
so the show has to be accessiblein some way. whether it's captioningor sign interpreting or audio description or whether there needs to be sometechnical adjustments for autism friendly. and in new york, we're tryingbut i go to access conferences-- i came back from the [inaudible]lead conference this past summer, and man am i jealous of what my friends in chicago get to do. and they touch tours on every cornerfor patrons with vision loss.
and in london, the relaxedperformance movement. not four times a year,but like four times a month! and i had a colleague, roger [adashi]who's at temple university who's really pushing the [inaudible]friendly programming movement in a lot of ways. and he said this summer,"access is options." it's not-- what often times,access becomes is an event, but that's not access. access is having optionsand we are striving and we're pushing
and technology is helping us get there, with the idea of on-request access,like in the case of hand held captioning. we have the eye caption devices out there, i know there are a million peopletrying to create an app to do on-demand captioning right now. and stuff as simple as tdf,we just started providing box offices with autism friendly kits, as simple as a character guideof the show, a couple of fidgets and some noisecancelling headphones.
so if a patron shows upto a non-autism friendly performance, but has their right to cometo any performance, we have something therethat can support them, in some way. (diep) and just one final questionabout ada compliance and i experience-- christine in particularin your experience as an audience member,how far are we from-- institutions are from full compliancein your experience? (christine) i guess it dependson where we're talking about. i mean, any building that was builtbefore 1990,
which sadly is the majority of theatersin new york city, is not ada compliant,a lot of them are trying, but normally the seatingis sort of compliant and then the rest roomaren't compliant. i think people's intentionsare great. but i think what happens when we talkabout ada compliance, and when we use the term "accessibility," people think, they just stop at that,at accessibility, at wheelchair accessible seating,at infrared devices,
at captioning and audio description,and it goes so far beyond that. we should be talkingabout the intention of inclusion, throughout everything. so on our stages, in our audiences,and basic customer service. (laura) yeah and i was going to say,a lot of times, it's very reactionary. so instead of-- and we havebrilliant designers, there are brilliant designersoutside of the theatrical world but also in the theatrical world, maybe someone can start thinkingabout these old broadway houses
and coming up with an affordableoption to replace the seating (laughs). you know make somethingso someone can choose wherever they'd liketo seat in the theater and they can get to those seats. i mean there's got to besomeone with some ideas out there. (phil) and credit where credit's due. i know at least,i think it was two years ago, the [girsh] one folded in,replacing their chairs, with expanding their wheelchair seatingand adding t-coil for folks
who have that abilitywith their hearing aids. so there are some people thinking about itwhich is great. (christine) for sure. i would say though, and this is goingto seem like a stupid thing to say but know the law. i mean, at the very least, know the ada. not just the ada from 1990,but the ada amendments act which changed in 2010because it expanded accessibility particularly with respect with seating,
and i can't tell youhow many broadway houses i've been to where they don't knowthat the law has changed. (alexandria) i'd like to mentiontwo quick things. related to the ada, know the law,keep up with it, but also, be transparenton your website. (christine) yes! (alexandria) because for many people,that's an issue, if they don't have good communicationhow they can contact you, it has to be connected on the websiteso we know what's happening on the web,
and maintain accurate accessibilityinformation there. secondly, there's a nationalassociation of the deaf that soon will be releasinga position statement about theater of 400 seats or more, and with the best practicesfor providing improved access with sign language interpreting,captioning and so forth. and i think that's a very exciting eventthat should be coming soon, so keep your eye out for that. (diep) great! we have seven minutes leftso let's take some questions.
yes! [inaudible] (man in audience) this is a questionfor christine and alexandria. i used to workas a marketing director for years and we do asl performances, and multiple managing directorswould see this and say to me, "it's great because you have this built-inaudience to sell tickets to." and it felt a little bit skiddy.(panel laughs) so i'm just curious about interceptionwithin the communities as representatives for those communities,
what is the perception of theater like?is it just a thing of like-- i'm just basically asking,what is the actual bald faced opinion of how the theater is configuredfor the respective groups, and you go backto what is conversation like? (christine) erm-- (man in audience) don't try and [cut]it out, is it respected in general? when we're dealing with patrons,they were like, "well, you should do this all the time." right, but that just doesn't happen,so is there a resentment there?
(diep) his question is, what's the opinion among membersof the disability community with regards to theaterand how hard is it that they're trying? - (alexandria) well...- (christine) let alexandria take this. (alexandria) yes.(panel laughs) it's a good question, a little loaded. i'll try to get an answer that may notfit the entire community perspective but i do know that often the informationof a show that has interpretation, is advertised by tdfor whether it comes from hands on.
we assume that every deaf person thenwould have access to a computer and how are they getting information? is it just through your website alone? and also, how would the deaf people knowif they haven't been contacted through their normal communication means. so contact is part of the issue. and when you mentionedthat it's a built in audience, i don't think that's a negative,i actually think it's kind of a positive, like a non-profit theater needs[inaudible]
i think it's great to be special and know that the theater is goingto keep me informed of what plays are going on. that's just me of course,i think it's nice (laughs). (christine) yeah, i do thinkthere's this perception particularly among when you'retrying to attract deaf audiences, that if you just say, "okay, we have twoasl interpreted performances for each show," or whatever right? that if you build it, they'll come,without any outreach.
you have to do the outreachto the community to say, "we want you there,we've specifically designed these shows for you." because traditionally and againalexandria correct me if i'm wrong, but what we hear all the timeis like, we don't go to things, "we" i mean, deafand hard of hearing patrons, we traditionally don't go to thingsbecause we assume that it's not for us. because nobody is reaching out to us. unless somebody reaches out to usand says, "here's this thing,
and we want you there,we're welcoming you in our space," they choose not to. (laura) and even then,it's not a guarantee that someone will want to see the playthat's being interpreted. (christine) yeah!(panel laughs) (alexandria) so true,and also when we look at scheduling, that's another factor. i'm a busy person,i cannot be available for those two dates that you're offering.
thank you for offering them,but i may not necessarily be available and not everyone is ableto drop everything and just go to the datesthat are interpreted. it's not always the case. (diep) yes. (woman in audience)as an arts administrator, where do you think is the best placeto find funding for accommodationlike being non-disabled and like going, "okay i'm goingto find all these accommodations
and i want to be as opento the suggestions of our artists and our patrons as possible." if you want to accommodate quicklyand right then and there, so that you open up what you're doingwith everyone. so are we looking at government funding, are we looking at just poolingour own resources together, [inaudible] (laughter) you know, where do you guysthink is the best? please start with [inaudible].
(alexandria) well, if i knew.(panel laughs) (diep) the questionis for art administrators, where does the funding come from? where's the best place for it? (woman in audience) just let me reiterate,like where is the best place to start? (diep) yeah to start finding it. (christine) okay so i'm goingto throw a little bit of a wet blanket on thisbecause this is a big problem. we come up here, we say,"you should be doing this"
and the truth is, there is not a lotof funding designated for people to make these changes. and sometimes they are huge structuralchanges that need to be made, right? because the nea does not providefunding for structural changes so i'm not going to lie to you,i'm going to say-- someone just asked me this question,exactly this question yesterday and i'm going to say to youwhat i said to her. that there's not a lotof funding out there for this kind of support.
but there are things you can do nowthat don't cost a lot of money like you can make your website accessible. how many of you in this room knowwhether your website is 508 compliant? you can make the accessibility toolson your website, the signage and everything,you can put all that information that alexandria was talking about,front and center on your website, so we don't have to dig 17 pages into find out what you do offer. i think the biggest thingis customer service. which doesn't cost anything.
you can educate your front of house staffand say when somebody calls, have the answer to the question. if somebody says, i'm blindand i need assistance with a ticket, don't say, "hold on a minute,i'll find somebody for you to talk to." everybody at every level should knowexactly the person to go to, and if they don't know the person,they should say, "i'm going to findthat information for you." whether it's referring them to tdf, or whether you have your in-house person.
everybody who enters that-- (phil) listen, the ticketmasterhas my phone number on their website, so does telecharge,feel free to put it on yours. no i think with that, there's manyorganizations that will do training, sensitivity training,disability etiquette, things like that are mostly for free. and if you're lookingfor the audience perspective, shameless [plug] tdf has a nationalopen captioning initiative, where we pay for your firsttwo years of captioning,
while you develop an audience. we also have the same thingfor autism friendly performances. (christine) that's awesome. (phil) so if head to our websiteand head to the accessibility section, you can find that.(laughter) (christine) and inclusion in the artsdoes many patron services training, so we can come in and talkto your front of house staff about the best way to dealwith the customers that are coming, whether or notthey have disabilities,
it's just good customer service. (laura) and it needs to be on-going,it can't just be one conversation and then you feel like you're finished. it needs to be an on-going conversationthat's refreshed every few months, as often as it needs to be,so people feel confident to serve all the patrons. (diep) i don't mean to plythe place i work for, (panel laughs)but i work for an organization called theater communications group
and we offer grants called,audience (r)evolution, where you can actually applyfor initiatives like what you're talking about. we just gave money to six theatersto fund more autism friendly performances. question? yes. (woman 2 in audience) so i've gota friend who used to live here in new york, and she's got a group called,"performance link for able imagination." and she used to go outinto the communities, mostly children and teenagersand some of those groups
with autism and down's syndrome. and so she used to work [inaudible]. now she's moved to the ukand she tells me that the uk is just overall built generallybetter for disabilities. is that the case?is america behind? (phil) well so the dynamicis a little different. - (diep) oh i have to tell...- (phil) sorry go ahead. (diep) the question is,is the uk better than america in terms of...(laughter)
(phil) listen, my british girlfriendwould agree. (panel laughs) the dynamic is differentin that most theater and arts in the uk receives government funding. so they are required to do certain things,as opposed to the commercial aspects here. where the requirementsare a little bit different, and the government can't really knockon the door at me like, "hey man, you got to do this!." while over there, they can. (christine) yeah, it is a big difference.
i'll speak to my own experienceas an artist. i've worked more in the ukthan i have here, which i say that onlybecause that's indicative of what we've been talking about. my skills are much more embracedover there because of the culture. because over there, they followthe social model of disability which i won't get intobut there's a difference between the social model of disabilityand the medical model of disability. basically, in this country, we're stillsort of following the medical model,
which means that i have a problem,and the onus is on me to fix it. in the uk, the onus is on the societyto make the society inclusive for everybody. and that's really-- i just threwthat out there and i know that's like a hugebrain exploding concept. but that's basically the difference. (woman 3 in audience) i'm just curious,you've talked about autism and i'm curious as to, as an artistwith a mental illness, how you feel like mental illness
and some of the moreinvisible disabilities fit into the conversation. (diep) how do invisible disabilitiesfit into the conversation? (woman 3 in audience)such as mental illness. (diep) such as mental illness.yeah. (phil) well it's removingthe preconceived notion that every disability is visible. that's step one right? you know, we've been at autismfriendly performances
and i've heard a volunteer say,"well, what are they doing here, they don't look like they have autism?" and i pull them to the side and say,"let's talk about that real quick." (laughter) but you know, it is. it's just understanding that you're notgoing to be able to see it upfront. accommodations wise,without prompting then though, i'm not going to have it ready unless it's already partof the institution,
that it's something there. but if it's something beyondwhat the institution already has, i mean you're right, it's the indicativeof the medical versus the social model. (christine) yeah. and unfortunately i think it's still with peoplewith invisible disabilities, it's kind of encombant uponthe person to speak up and say what they need. which it shouldn't be that way. and i don't have the answerbut that's sort of what we see,
is that the onus is stillmore on you than it should be. (woman 3 in audience) and speaking also from the accessibilitystandpoint for artists, because someone who went throughan mfa program, and the sort of boot camp army modelof no sleep, red bull all the time, i feel like that's presentin the arts too, and it's not very inclusiveof people who are trying to make an active effort to take careof their mental health. (diep) are there any more questions?
fantastic! yeah and thank you all for comingand thank you to our wonderful panelists. and to our interpreters.