Radical Inclusion and Access
Three years ago, Queens Theatre made an intentional effort to work with more artists from the Disability community and to learn from other cultural institutions who were offering more accessibility services to their patrons and audience members.
Honoring the spirit behind the slogan, “Nothing About Us Without Us;” an idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group affected by that policy, our first step was to create an advisory board.
This board is comprised of an integrated group of disabled and non-disabled individuals with backgrounds in theater, activism, academia and arts administration. As we listened and learned, QT committed to doing better and doing more to fully reach artists and audience members with disabilities from within Queens and throughout New York City. We call this initiative ― Theatre For All.
There are many parts to the Theatre For All Initiative (TFA) because to practice radical inclusion and access it all has to happen all at the same time.
Queens Theatre asked itself two questions:
How could it offer programs to the disabled community, and then not offer the services they need to enjoy the programming in our spaces?
Theatre for All Short Plays
This is where the TFA Short Plays come in. As an inaugural recipient of The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Disability Forward Fund. We used this support to present a festival of 10 short plays by disabled writers and/or featuring characters with disabilities. We put out a national call for submissions and received more than 150 responses in just four weeks!
The readings were presented in a sold out evening in November 2018. Three plays from that evening were reprised in our Cabaret space as part of a larger event to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3 of last year.
On May 4, 2019, seven additional plays will be presented thanks to a grant from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.
The voices are there, the roles are there. This project has involved dozens of artists and the performances, of course, were accessible for audience members of all ages.
The second question addressed the issue of who would be performing these works. Considering the barriers to employment and advancement in the cultural sector for artists with disabilities, how could we offer more opportunities through the training of professional actors?
In September of 2018, a cohort of 20 professional actors from across the country participated in a two-week intensive training program for Deaf and Disabled early-career artists. Actors were selected through a national application process. TFA offered both daytime and evening sessions.
The two-week, free program included workshops on Acting for the Camera, Acting for the Stage, Movement, Voice, Improv, Auditioning, and Commercials. The program culminated with a showcase performance for an invited industry audience.
“Our goal with this program is to support skill building and to help actors cultivate relationships with their fellow students and with industry professionals,” QT’s Executive Director Taryn Sacramone said. "We are excited to spotlight these talented early-career actors and expand our own artistic family in the process."
Queens Theatre brought together an excellent team of instructors, including Vincent D'Onofrio (Netflix's "Daredevil," "Jurassic Word," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "Full Metal Jacket"), Brigid Brady (Actor/Singer/Teacher, Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera, "Gossip Girl"), Christine Bruno (Actor/Teaching Artist/ Consultant, member The Actors Studio, "Law & Order"), Pat Shay (Improviser and faculty member, The PIT), Stephen DeAngelis (Producer/Casting Director) and Liz Eckert (Actor and Designated Linklater Voice Teacher).
“If I could go back in time to the start of my career, I would want to be part of Theatre For All,” QT’s Director of Inclusion Gregg Mozgala said. “Representation matters. Not only on the stage and screen, but in training environments like the one Queens Theatre has so painstakingly and passionately created.”
In September 2019, Queens Theatre will present a second round of the TFA Training Program. All workshops and events will take place at Queens Theatre, located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The program is offered as part of Queens Theatre's Theatre For All Initiative to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities in the performing arts, with support from New York Community Trust.
"There is no other program like it in the country,” Mozgala said. “Queens Theatre understands that truly inclusive theater is about reflecting the experience of all of us."
Theatre for All News
(Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle. The 504 Sit-In Protest scene from the La Jolla Playhouse POP Tour! production of Emily Driver’s Great Race Through Time and Space!) Queens, NY – Queens Theatre (QT) and The Museum, Arts & Culture Access Consortium (MAC) announced today that A.A. Brenner and Gregg Mozgala’s EMILY DRIVER’S GREAT RACE THROUGH TIME AND SPACE! will receive a virtual play reading on July 29 at 2:00 PM…Read More
More than 40 hearing and Deaf young actors brought their two worlds together on the Queens Theatre’s Mainstage with their recent performances of Once Upon a Mattress. The cast included students from the Lexington School for the Deaf and the Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts doubling up on roles in the light-hearted musical comedy based on “The Princess and the Pea.” Although there may have been two performers for…Read More
Carey Cox, currently starring in Queens Theatre’s production of Barefoot in the Park, is not shy when it comes to expressing her feelings about Queens Theatre’s Theatre For All training program. “It was literally life-changing,” Carey said. “I didn’t know there was a community of disabled actors.” Carey had a Broadway credit on her resume (she understudied the part of Laura in the 2017 revival of The Glass Menagerie starring Sally Field), when she…Read More
On Sept. 24 & 25, Queens Theatre was honored to host the first-of-its kind in the country, National Disability in Theatre Convening. Theater company administrators, non-profit funders, teachers, performers and playwrights came to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for two days of workshops, panel discussions and a Town Hall meeting centered around disability inclusion in the theater. Some of those participating included Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The CRY HAVOC Company, Dance/NYC, New…Read More