7. A photograph of two medical masks hanging to dry on a clothesline. The mask on the left is white and the mask on the right is blue. Each is pinned to the line with a light blue clothespin.

Disability Justice in Applied Theatre: What Covid-19 Reveals about Accessibility in the Arts

Friday, June 11, 2021 | 14:30 - 16:00

Live panel on Zoom; spoken in English. Live ASL interpretation will be offered for this event. No translation will be offered for this event.


Join Now in Room E

About this event

Disability theatre has a rich history in Canada that has disrupted the status quo and ableist assumptions in mainstream theatre. However, the impact of a global pandemic has revealed the ongoing need to address accessibility, whose lives are valued, and indeed “what is a livable life” (Hole & Stainton, 2020, p. 2)? For individuals with intellectual disability (ID), the stark reality of Covid-19 has limited access to community activities and programs, and the livability of social isolation is not sustainable. As applied theatre and critical disability studies researchers, we have therefore pivoted to online pedagogies to uphold our community theatre practice with adults with ID, who refer to themselves as self-advocates (SAs)—those who speak and act with agency. Building upon the success of our previous Vancouver Foundation Grant project to support the sexual agency of SAs, we are co-creating our second Vancouver Foundation Grant project with the same ensemble of SAs to address issues of employment. While co-creating theatre and building shared practices on Zoom presents ongoing challenges, the importance of community and power of connection is more vital than ever. Moreover, our transition to online theatre creation may offer greater accessibility for SAs in terms of working from home and not relying on, in one SA’s words, “the damn HandyDART” to get to rehearsal. We propose a synchronous presentation about the process of co-creating applied theatre over Zoom and what Covid-19 has taught us about the work that still remains to address ableism in traditional theatre settings and practices.

Works Cited:

Hole, R., & Stainton, T. (2020). “COVID 19: The Precarity of Families and Disability.” Child & Youth Services, DOI: 10.1080/0145935X.2020.1834997

Aaron Pietras graduated from New Westminster Secondary School with an Evergreen Certificate in 2014. He studied acting in high school and later completed comedy classes under the direction of Janice Bannister, comedian and owner of Lafflines in New West. Aaron took voice lessons for a number of years under the direction of Ryan Langevin at the Neil Douglas Guitar Shop in New West. Aaron works part time at the Massey Theatre providing input into projects about accessibility. He was an actor/co-creator in the 2019 production Romance, Relationships and Rights and gives presentations to high school students with Community Living BC facilitators and parents in Burnaby and New West.

Dana Faris's theatrical debut was in Romance, Relationships and Rights in 2019. Dana is a grocery clerk by night and a fanatical PNE employee in summers. Just don't ask her to go on the Hellevator with you! She loves listening to music, public transportation (she knows all the bus drivers) and loves attending city and cultural events like Chinese New Year, Halloween, fireworks, Christmas events - you name it! She also has a collection of ornaments and decorations for most holidays but don't call her a hoarder. Dana loves animals, particularly dogs but none more than Canuck the Crow. Three caws! Caw, Caw, Caw. Dana has recently started going to art nights which she enjoys very much.

Larissa Gunkel has a warm, passionate personality and loves to do public speaking and acting. Larissa was an Extra in Shark Girl and was in her high school production of West Side Story. Larissa graduated in 2002 from McNair Secondary Richmond, BC with Service and Acting Awards! She was an actor and co-creator in the performance, Romance, Relationships & Rights in 2019. Larissa is a member of the Community Living British Columbia Editorial Board, a part-time peer facilitator with Real Talk where they talk about relationships and sexual topics. She is also working with a group planning a Virtual Sexual Health Expo.

Dr. Leyton Schnellert is Associate Professor, UBC Faculty of Education and Inclusive Education Research Lead, Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship. Dr. Schnellert’s community-engaged research contributes a counter-argument to normative approaches that operate from deficit models, instead drawing from communities’ funds of knowledge and identity to build inclusive practices. Dr. Schnellert is the Pedagogy and Participation research cluster lead in UBC’s Institute for Community Engaged Research (ICER). Dr Schnellert conducts and teaches qualitative research methods including arts-based methodologies. He also has extensive theatre creation experience, in particular taking up devised theatre, community-based theatre, and theatre for social justice.

Dr. Rachelle Hole (Associate Professor, UBC Okanagan School of Social Work) is the Director of the UBC Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship (CIIC), the first university-based research institute in Canada with a focus on intellectual and developmental disabilities. Dr. Hole's research programme is informed by two complementary streams: 1) a substantial focus on the socio-cultural practices that promote social inclusion and equity, and 2) a methodological focus on community based participatory research methods. Critical disability studies is central to the first stream informing Rachelle’s research in the area of community living and intellectual disability.

Jessica Anne Nelson is an award-winning theatre director, creator, and producer who sets the bar for creating safe and imaginative spaces for artists to create in her provocative productions. With her M.F.A. in Directing and B.A. Honours in Theatre from the University of British Columbia, her practice focuses on exploring the full range of human experiences in gender and within traditionally “evil” or “bad” characters. She has been honoured with the Sydney J. Risk Award in Directing, Yvonne Firkins Prize, John Brockington Scholarship in Theatre (UBC) and was an inaugural recipient of the Bill Millerd Artist Fund (Arts Club Theatre).

Cindy Chapman has been the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship (formerly the Centre for Inclusion and Citizenship) Coordinator and project coordinator for the past 11 years. She has extensive experience in the community living sector and expertise in issues related to plain language and supporting self advocates for community inclusion. Before joining the Institute, she worked at Inclusion BC for 13 years.

Dr. Leah Tidey is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria focusing on amplifying diverse voices through arts-based methodologies. Her research expertise is focused on community-based, devised and social justice theatre to address sexual health. She is also a sexual health educator and utilizes her theatre training to create engaging workshops and online content for people of all ages.