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  • Mobilizing a Slow Theatre Movement through an Atypique Artist Perspective
  • Ash McAskill (bio)

There is a crisis right now in our Canadian theatre landscape. Our theatres seem to value only one kind of neurotypical perception. There is a need to represent and include more neurodiverse realities, a need for more ways of being in our creative spaces. Our professional stages and universities have worked systematically within turbo-capitalistic frameworks in which artists and learners who need more time are passed over or are accommodated in ways that make them feel they are the problem. Although it is not my intention to condemn fastness, I want to focus on what or who we miss or leave out when we culturally value one kind of temporality over all others. This approach to temporal evaluation has led to an immense exclusion of artists who are disabled, who are aging, or who in Quebec would be defined as atypique (atypical), in the name of supporting a single cognitive style. As we begin to "hurry through life, cramming more into every hour, we are stretching ourselves to the breaking point" (Honoré 4; emphasis added), and as Lutz Koepnick has pointed out, "we end up with ever less—less substance, less depth, less meaning, less freedom, less spontaneity" (1).

My interest in slowness is in how it resensitizes us to the world in which we move, work, breathe, and exist:

How do we give people time? How do we share wealth and experience? How do we support the new and unfamiliar? How do we break through old structures, borders, territories? How do we go beyond what we imagined for ourselves and for each other? How do we lift up those who can't go on any longer? How do we give what we most need?


These are important questions that Lisa Schlesinger—playwright and theatre activist—poses in her article "Towards a Slow Theatre." She defines 'slow theatre' as a "way of making theatre and a way of living" that works "towards beautiful solutions" for our current less-than-fulfilling capitalistic lifestyles. Schlesinger's questions emphasize the necessity of a slowness and inclusion that values cognitive multiplicity. I argue that slowness moves beyond being a specific measurement of pace to being an important mode of perception for valuing human diversity. The atypique artistic movement, which began in 2004, is dedicated to recognizing the aesthetic value and professional rights of artists who are unconventionally and cognitively different. Thus, I begin this article by examining the ways that atypique artists, particularly from the disability community, are creating new legacies of a slow theatre movement.

Les Productions des pieds des mains, a Montreal-based dance-theatre company, has been one of the leaders of this radical artistic shift in Quebec. The focus of this article is on a recent contemporary film called Eurêka!, created by Menka Nagrani, the Artistic Director of the company, and the experiences of the three principal disabled dancers of the piece—Geneviève Morin-Dupont, Jean François Hupé, and Carl Hennebert Faulkner. Throughout this article, I will include performance descriptions of film recordings I took behind the scenes while serving as an on-set production assistant during August 2014. Extending from my observations, I will theorize how the film embodies some of Schlesinger's principles for the slow theatre movement. Although Les Productions des pieds des mains does not identify as a slow theatre company, their commitment to an interdisciplinary aesthetic and atypique artistic approaches offers a provocative response to the current turbo-capitalistic pressures of the industry.

Recognizing neurodiversity and atypique artists

Although it is difficult to isolate the precise moment when the atypique movement began, Nagrani places its beginnings in 2005. This was the year Dena Davida, Artistic Director of l'Espace Tangente—a Quebec-based contemporary dance programmer—used the word as the title for a dance series to signify the celebration of differences between the dancers, who included France Geoffrey, a quadriplegic dancer and founder of Corpuscule dance, and [End Page 41] members of Les Productions des pieds des mains (Nagrani, "Email Question"). The title Corps-atypik was used again in 2007 and 2011 to present other productions...


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