D/deaf and disabled artists and arts workers face additional barriers in establishing a career the creative industries. Below we have collated various resources that you might find helpful in developing your creative practice or organisation.
Jump down to Resources for organisations
We have spoken to some of the UK’s best and brightest D/deaf and disabled talent from the performing arts, so you can understand the decision process that steered them through their career and discover what they believe is important to give yourself the best chance at establishing a career.
Caroline also does the stand up comedy circuit, is a member of Abnormally Funny People. In the cabaret circuit Caroline performs in her unique style signed songs, she recently gave a TEDx talk on ‘Singing Without Her Voice’. At the 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony she signed the closing number ‘I am What I Am’ alongside Beverly Knight. In 2015 Caroline won three best Actress awards for her role Mabel Morgan in BSLBT Zone film ‘If I Don’t Lose, I’ll Lose’ at the Cenedeaf III Rome film festival, Clin d’Oeil and Cannes Disability Film Festival 2016.
Awards: BBC Community Hero Award, British Citizens Award, British Empire Medal for services to Theatre and Disability (Queen’s Birthday Honours List).
A Guide to Writing Plays from Rob Drummer
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It might be helpful to start with what a play is, in its simplest form, so how about the following definition:
“A play is a form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of dialogue between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading.”
The most important thing here is to remember that a play is intended for performance, to be experienced by an audience and to be performed by actors, so the words on the page are only the beginning. They are like the plans for a building or even a sketch prepared before a painting. A lot of the making of a new play happens with the script as a starting point, even when all of the dialogue is spoken. Remember as a playwright you are telling stories with words and pictures.
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I like to also consider what a playwright is, so how about the following definition:
If you think about how the word playwright is spelt it has more in common with a shipwright or a wheelwright and that is to say that they are both makers, contributing to a much larger process. The playwright is vital but also is one of the collaborators in the making of the play.
In my experience we all write differently, I’ve yet to meet two playwrights who mirror each other’s writing habits or who approach writing plays in identical ways. Of course there are shared ways of working and similarities and one thing that is the same across the board is that we all need to start somewhere.
It is fair to say that plays come in all shapes and sizes and the more you read the more you will realise there are lots of ways to write, to arrange your writing on the page but there are some rules you could start to follow.
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Some Ways To Format Your Play On The Page
I’m going to begin with some advice in terms of formatting:
- Start each new line of dialogue on a new line and include the character name at the start of the line.
- If you are using stage directions, separate them from dialogue on the page and perhaps use italics, less is usually more and keep them limited to essential action that is vital to the storytelling.
- Generally speaking, a big shift in time or location means a new scene might be useful, have a think about time and place and make a decision if your play works best with a break in the middle (the interval) or if it is best experienced in one sitting, over ninety minutes.
- Consider the sound of your dialogue, the rhythm and pace of your play and think about characters who might interrupt each other, or might trail off at the end of a sentence. Some interesting ways to represent this include:
- … represents a character trailing off at the end of a sentence, perhaps lost in thought.
- / represents a point of interruption, where the next character overlaps with their dialogue
- Finally, always remember that page numbers are really helpful, your name and the title of the play should appear at least on the cover page and a character breakdown can be really helpful to anybody reading your play for the first time.
- Theatre Tech BSL The Technical Theatre BSL (British Sign Language) Project aims to promote technical theatre for Deaf people. They do this through exploring and translating technical theatre words and jargon into BSL. This in turn will provide greater access for Deaf people to training and employment in technical theatre.
- Shape Arts Resources to help improve your organisations confidence in working with disabled people, and making your organisation more diverse and inclusive.
- Unlimited – Demystifying Access: A guide for producers and performance makers – how to create better access for audiences to the performing arts.
Resources for organisations
The documents below have been informed by past events and experience and we update them as any new learning occurs – they are live documents. We are very happy for other people to use them and we encourage further input and suggestions – which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Accessible Marketing Toolkit
This toolkit is a checklist that BOP use as a reference when creating marketing material.
Accessible Event Planning Toolkit
This document is a checklist that BOP use as a reference when planning events.
BOP Equalities Monitoring Form
This document is a preview of the questions we ask in our Equalities Monitoring Form. The version we send out to people who work with us is a Google Form, so the questions are check boxes that people can select. Circular icons for a question indicate only one option can be selected, square icons for a question indicate multiple choice is available.
Access Requirements Form – for freelancers
This is the form we send out to all freelancers we engage in work to ensure that we are made aware of any access requirements they might have. We are then able to more easily accommodate these requirements in a way that is useful for the individual. By sending it out to everyone we work with we ensure that even people who might not have raised their access requirements to us prior to that point are given an opportunity to update us on their personal situation.
Academic paper: ‘Enhancing relaxed performance: evaluating the Autism Arts Festival’
by Ben Fletcher-Watson and Shaun May
‘Relaxed performances’ allow theatre spectators to experience a non-judgmental environment, featuring adjustments to make them more accessible to a range of audiences. The Autism Arts Festival attempted to develop the idea of relaxed performances further to create an entirely autism-friendly festival in Canterbury. The organisers developed a suite of features to make the festival more accessible, and the suite as a whole was effective at increasing the accessibility of the festival. Moreover, discussions with performers indicate that the festival, as an ‘autistic space’, was conducive of both a sense of community solidarity and engagement with the politics of neurodiversity.
This paper looks at relaxed performances, which are theatre performances where it is OK to talk or move around during the show. Relaxed performances are often enjoyed by people on the autistic spectrum. This is because the lights are less bright, the sound effects are quieter, there are more theatre staff to help, and you can read about the theatre and the show before you visit, so you feel more comfortable and relaxed.
This paper looks at the Autism Arts Festival, which was a two-day festival of theatre, films, comedy, and art where all the performances were relaxed. The people who ran the Festival wanted to make sure that people were comfortable before and during their visit – especially if they were autistic. To do this, they tried lots of new things, such as videos of the paths around the theatres, and free toys to fidget with. We found out that most people who visited the Festival thought it was friendly and welcoming. We also found that people used lots of different things to help them feel comfortable.
The people who made the shows told us that the Festival felt like an ‘autistic space’, which means a place where autistic people feel at home. They liked meeting other people on the autistic spectrum. They had interesting conversations about how autistic people and people who are not on the spectrum could work together and learn from each other.