Body Politic: An Illustrated History
“My Body Politic: An Illustrated History” is
a theatrical adaptation of my memoir, My Body Politic, published
in 2006. I am both the narrator and a participant in the work,
which includes multi media materials (text, sound, images and video),
as well as live performance and audience participation. The work
embeds a personal narrative of the lived experience of disability
within its social and political context (Act 1), and its cultural
and artistic context (Act 2).
The narrative arc of the work begins in 1971, when I was injured
while hitchhiking to Washington, DC to protest the war in Vietnam, and
concludes with a meditation on the war in Iraq and its manufacture of
disability. In the thirty-five years between these wars, the disability
rights movement grew into a political force and a vibrant disability
culture emerged, reshaping what it means to be disabled in America.
One explores my early years with disability and growing awareness of the disability
rights movement. Using my own story, and incorporating the testimony
of members of the disability community, Act One focuses on the political climate
that shapes disabled people’s lives.
reflects more recent experience, and my entry into the disability arts world
- the emerging cadre of dancers, writers, performers and painters who actively
demonstrate what disability provides the artist rather than what feats someone
can perform despite disability. Archival materials, music and video
are woven through my narrative of the discovery of this genre, to illustrate
how disabled artists exploit their unique configuration of body and voice in
the service of art.
of a successful performance rests on two equally important measures: first,
the artistic merits of the work; second, the degree to which the work emulates
the ethos of inclusion and integration found in disability culture. When disabled
people gather, a range of techniques is used to assure democratic participation
in the event: ASL interpretation, captioning, audio description etc. A high
level of accommodation is essential to the success of these performances. Decisions
about staging, and about the lighting and acoustic environment of the theatre
are made to maximize the participation of the disabled people in the audience
and those involved in the production.