As modern theater productions undergo a necessary shift towards more racially diverse casting–hello, Hamilton!–and characters of color continue to shine on stage, the industry is (gradually) opening up to inclusionary opportunities for actors with disabilities.
By Alexis Soloski at The New York Times:
Recent conversations around this issue, in film and television as well as in theater, have become more contentious, with comparisons often drawn to traditions of blackface. As the journalist Frances Ryan wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian last year, “Perhaps it is time to think before we next applaud ‘cripping up.’ Disabled people’s lives are more than something for non-disabled actors to play at.”
Or, as Howard Sherman, the interim director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, put it: “Playing someone with a disability should not be considered a talent or a skill for nondisabled actors. It should be considered taking a job away from someone with the unique life experiences to portray that role.”
Ali Stroker, the “Spring Awakening” performer who was said to be the first actress in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway, occasionally heard discouraging words.
Ms. Stroker, who said she was also the first actor in a wheelchair to graduate from New York University’s rigorous theater training program, recalled a casting director telling her, “This is going to be very hard for you.”
“Perfect,” Ms. Stroker said. “My life has been hard. I don’t like easy things.”
She added: “My experience of having a disability my entire life was perfect training for this industry. I’m used to hearing no. I’m used to being creative when someone has closed a door.”
This story was originally published on June 29th, 2016.