Abstract

Abstract:

Jesuit Brother Rick Curry founded the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped (NTWH) in 1977 with the mission of training blind and physically disabled people to work as actors. This essay examines the relationship between the NTWH’s dual commitments to Stanislavskian actor training and professionalizing people with disabilities as theatrical laborers. That such commitments would be mutually compatible might initially seem surprising, in light of the pervasive ableist representations and discourses that shape Stanislavsky’s system. The essay reveals how the workshop critically negotiated Stanislavsky’s ableism in order to interpret disability as the condition of possibility for authentic expression onstage. It does so by analyzing the workshop’s neo-Stanislavskian handbook—which it developed as a precursor to scene study with Stanislavsky’s An Actor Prepares—alongside Stanislavsky’s own writings. This analysis shows how the workshop aligned people with disabilities with both “authenticity” and the capacity for labor at a historical moment in which they enjoyed a fraught relationship to the US political and cultural imaginary. But the essay is just as interested in illuminating the political potential in how the NTWH exceeded, or fell short of, its own political project. By examining the workshop’s interpretations of Stanislavsky within broader histories of theatrical and affective labor, the essay reveals how the workshop inadvertently corroborated a “crip antiwork politics.” In so doing, the NTWH illuminated the role that theatre might play in challenging workforce participation as a horizon for disability politics.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-332X
Print ISSN
0192-2882
Pages
pp. 69-89
Launched on MUSE
2019-04-13
Open Access
No
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