In Hollywood, the credible portrayal of a character with a disability is regarded as the ultimate acting accomplishment of the able actor: think of Daniel Day Lewis in ‘My Left Foot or Dustin Hoffman’ in ‘Rain Man’.
Besides the fact that such representations can also have an stigmatizing effect, this raises the question: can disabled actors also portray able characters? Or are disabled actors trapped in their disability and can they only represent themselves? And why do we hardly see those actors at the stage, or even at the drama schools? All of these questions are the subject of my artistic research project ‘Acting and normativity’.
As an actor I have had to deal with disability which gives my interest in the subject a personal dimension. From an artistic point of view I try to find a form in which I succeed in making the universal in the disabled experience palpable for a wider audience, among other things by removing the dichotomy abled / disabled and questioning the underlying normativity as such. Through my work I try to initiate a conversation about diversity and inclusion in the Dutch-speaking theatre landscape about this normativity and the mechanisms of exclusion that result from it. In that sense, I see this conversation about disability as part of a broader intersectional conversation about exclusionary mechanisms.
In doing so, I was inspired, among others, by Daron Oram's research and practice at the Royal Central School for Speech and Drama in London.