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Pain Plus Silence: How Theatremakers Face Invisible Disabilities

Friday 24 August 2018


From American Theatre:


Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood
Alethea Bakogeorge (third from right) in
"Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" where she
plays a character that uses a leg brace.

Pain Plus Silence: How Theatremakers Face Invisible Disabilities

The decision of when or whether to disclose their condition remains fraught, but some artists are finding ways to break through stigma and forge new paths.

By Christie Honoré
July 31, 2018
©2018 Theatre Communications Group. All rights reserved.

In 1988, playwright/director Carolyn Gage was feeling tired. At first she thought it was just because she had started a theatre company. “I did 16 shows that I wrote, directed, and produced in about two and a half years,” Gage recalled. But this was not the kind of tired that went away with a good night’s sleep. It was a recurring “extreme fatigue” that didn’t abate, no matter how much time off she took or how much she slept. Her symptoms became so debilitating that she hardly left her room for a year.

“At this time I didn’t have a diagnosis—I was calling it a nervous breakdown,” she said.

The unrelenting exhaustion Gage experienced would later be diagnosed as myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, which according to the Mayo Clinic is characterized by fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, and “extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise.”

Gage’s experience navigating the theatre industry with an undisclosed disability or chronic illness is not rare, just rarely talked about. A recent diversity study by Actors Equity Association, which surveyed 50,920 members, recorded that only 219 members, or .0043 percent, self-identify as having a disability. It’s a number the union acknowledges is not representative of the actual disabled population.

Presumably some Equity members are not reporting their disability; as Equity itself notes, “We are aware that many members choose not to self-identify [as disabled] for any number of reasons.” It’s probably safe to assume that some of these numbers are “hidden” because their disabilities are effectively invisible.


Full article…



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