CPIT-trained performers will present their work Still Lives at the international Society for Disability Studies Conference in San Jose, California, 15 - 18 June, and they are being billed as a highlight of the influential four-day event.
Benjamin Morris, Isaac Tait and Glen Burrows attend a weekend mixed ability course within the Faculty of Creative Industries and have been working on their performance for four months. CPIT Performing Arts tutor Tony McCaffrey, who is directing Still Lives, has presented papers at the US-based conference for the last two years, which has generated international interest in the work being done in this sector at CPIT.
Tony is a specialist in performance involving people with disabilities; he has worked with mixed ability performers for seven years with the theatre company he founded, A Different Light, and is currently completing a PhD with the working title: The Politics and Aesthetics of Disability Performance. “What are we offering to people with disabilities and how do we engage them?” he said “This sector of our community is substantial and neglected, but globally there is a growing movement in this area of arts practice and human rights and we have enough potential at CPIT and in Christchurch to be a world player in this field of performance and research.” The Still Lives project is part of a much larger plan to establish a Centre for Diversity in Performance and the Arts at CPIT.
Tony said that participation in the mixed ability course could help performers to experience “greater social involvement, more confidence, a greater sense of achievement and of being challenged rather than just being left to their own devices.
“We work with people who have been labelled as having Down Syndrome, disorders on the autistic spectrum, cerebral palsy – mostly intellectual but also physical disabilities. It is huge just to work out the capabilities of the performers, where they can go emotionally and artistically.
“We draw material more and more from the performers. If that includes themes of sexuality or frustration and anger, then so be it, but it is also designed to be entertaining. We are not merely trying to do social issues theatre, this work forces us to confront what we mean by theatre.”
The participation at the Conference and the performance have been funded with the help of the CPIT Foundation, the Christchurch City Council’s Making it Happen Fund and the Society for Disability Studies. Still Lives will be incorporated into a more extensive performance to be presented at CPIT’s Ignition Creative Festival later this year.