Disability Justice Past and Present: Theatre, Scholarship, Activism

Emory University and the Folger Institute, with the support of Georgia Humanities, invite students, members of the Emory community and the general public to New Research and Performance Directions in Premodern Disability Studies, a virtual seminar taking place Thursday afternoon through Saturday, 4 – 6 March 2021.

Tickets are free and registration is required by February 15. To learn more, please visit https://www.folger.edu/events/new-research-performance-directions-premodern-disability-studies

Detail of John Bulwer, “Chirologia: or The naturall language of the hand· Composed of the speaking motions, and discoursing gestures thereof. …” 1644. Folger B5462

What do theatremakers and theatergoers learn when premodern disability scholarship intersects with public activism, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and provocative disability performance? How might we use stories of disability from the past to raise contemporary consciousness that advances disability justice and equity? What do we discover when disabled actors and audiences, in the past and present, engage with premodern drama and literature?

Come learn from leading experts in disability and performance studies and investigate how writers, performers, and scholars have—then and now—understood, experienced, and responded to bodymind differences. 

The seminar begins with a dynamic roundtable discussion, “Disability Justice Past and Present: The Power of Studying and Staging Disability for Our Own Time.” Theatremakers join with scholars-activists to explore the myriad ways that disability provocatively and more inclusively informs our experiences of drama, literature, and the world.

On the second day of programming, Stephan Wolfert (military veteran, actor, writer, and director) leads a “talk-back” session with Dawn Stern (Chief Operating Officer of DE-CRUIT and actress) of the film Cry Havoc!, an award winning, critically acclaimed, one-person play that seamlessly interweaves Shakespeare with personal experience to help us understand the national crises we face when we “wire for war but never unwire from war.” 

The final day of the seminar boasts two exciting workshops.  On Saturday at 10:00 a.m., Scott Jackson and Christy Burgess (Notre Dame) share their work on Shakespeare performance for neurodiverse audiences and the Hunter Heartbeat Method. At 1:00 p.m. Jill Bradbury (Gallaudet University) will be joined by ProTactile (PT) experts Jasper Norman and Yashaira Romilus for a ProTactile Theater Workshop, a new form of sign language developed for DeafBlind people.

To conclude the weekend’s events, seminar co-sponsors Allison P. Hobgood (Willamette University) and Sheila T. Cavanagh (Emory University) moderate an interactive scholarly discussion on new directions in premodern disability studies and performance.

All sessions will be conducted in the Zoom environment and accessible via CART, ASL, and other inclusive modalities. Please contact institute [at] folger [dot] edu to specify additional accessibility technologies that will enable your participation, or describe them in the field marked “order notes” when you register. Please register for as many sessions as you wish.

With special thanks to the Emory University sponsors who have generously supported this event:

  • Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archive, and Rare Book Library
  • Department of English
  • Disability Studies Initiative
  • Institute of The Liberal Arts
  • Theater Emory
  • Department of Theater Studies
  • Center for the Study of Human Health
  • Emory Accessibility Services
  • Hightower Fund