Writing and Research
My research is located at the crossroads of performance studies and disability studies, an exciting and burgeoning field gaining national and international recognition across disciplines. Disability theory has become a paradigm for exploring a range of race, class, gender, sexuality, and social relations as well as a tool for re-examining aesthetics and performance practices. My book project, Madness in the Making: Psychosocial Disability and Theater, analyzes theater that engages with disability for aesthetic purposes or critically addresses stigma and other forms of oppression associated with mental illness. The first refereed article to come to come out of this work, “Next to Normal and the Persistence of Pathology in Performances of Psychosocial Disability,” was published in Disability Studies Quarterly. I also published a chapter in Disabled Theater (Diaphanes and Chicago University Press), which analyzes choreographer Jérôme Bel and Theater Hora’s engagement with intellectual disability in their production Disabled Theater. My curriculum vitae references additional articles, chapters, and reviews that have been published or are currently at press.
Disability brings new ways of looking at our “normal” experiences, and I ask how this applies to performance: how do theater and other art practices shape our understanding of disability and how can atypical bodies and minds raise awareness of the usual beliefs, structures, and values that operate within institutions and cultural practices? While the subfield of disability and performance studies has to date focused on bodies, my project examines the unique facets and conceptual problemsof markedly different psychological and emotional states. Along with examining the uses and challenges of representing madness on stage, I argue that until disability theory analyzes standards of empathy and individual propriety, people with psychosocial disabilities will remain abjected not only in greater society but even within the disability community.
My research and creative practice beyond and apart from my book project includes analyzing political and social effects of postdramatic theater and how to critically include disability when teaching performance. I am committed to building disability inclusion into the curriculum and artwork from the ground up instead of applying add-on accommodations. For example, I have published on how to use audio description to not only accommodate blind and visually disabled students but also enrich universal learning strategies in academic writing courses. I have under review a journal article that examines challenges and tactics that I faced as a director when designing audio description for theater productions. Critical disability inclusion reshapes the classroom and performance events in ways that improve everyone’s learning and helps students and community members think about their plurality of perspectives and experiences.
The Wooster Group's Rumstick Road (1977) offered postdramatic strategies that pushed its audiences to engage with madness through new, critical perspectives. Photo by Ken Kopland.