After Disabled Theater Authorship, Creative Responsibility, and Autonomy in »Freie Republik HORA«
PDF, 14 pages
Theater productions with and by performers with cognitive disabilities are often characterized by the tension between the performers’ substantial share of authorship and their lack of artistic responsibility. Whereas performers with different abilities contribute their individual stories or corporealities to an artwork, they are usually staged by a non-disabled artistic director. Thus, the performances always stage the relationship between the director and the performers with disabilities. The article discusses how Disabled Theater and – two years later – the current “long term performance project” Freie Republik Hora may be considered as models to question these hierarchies and power relations inside the creative processes. Crucially, Disabled Theater has ignited a debate on these issues, by raising the question, who is speaking on stage. In Freie Republik Hora, – as a response to Disabled Theater – the ensemble members are supposed to obtain creative responsibility. At the same time, this experimental set-up even more reveals the issue of autonomy, which is subject to any form of theater work with and by cognitively disabled performers.
Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theater, a dance piece featuring eleven actors with cognitive disabilities from Zurich's Theater HORA, has polarized audiences worldwide. Some have celebrated the performance as an outstanding exploration of presence and representation; others have criticized it as a contemporary freak show. This impassioned reception provokes important questions about the role of people with cognitive disabilities within theater and dance—and within society writ large. Using Disabled Theater as the basis for a broad, interdisciplinary discussion of performance and disability, this volume explores the intersections of politics and aesthetics, inclusion and exclusion, and identity and empowerment. Can the stage serve as a place of emancipation for people with disabilities? To what extent are performers with disabilities able to challenge and subvert the rules of society? What would a performance look like without an ideology of ability?