I’m not overly fond of the saying, “life isn’t fair”, and even less so of the usual response, “get used to it!” For those of us who identify as neurodivergent, the idea of “fairness” often seems out of reach. So my response to someone saying, “life isn’t fair” is to look them in the eye and state clearly and confidently, “then I’ll make it fair!”
I created Uncertain Curtain Theatre after a discussion I had with a girl named Moose. Moose has a passion for the performing arts that is unparalleled, and a talent for acting that never fails to leave me in awe. Moose is also on the autism spectrum.
We would talk about her experiences; about the difficulties she had at auditions and during rehearsals, and how the people around her didn’t seem to understand that some things that they take for granted can be incredibly difficult for a person who identifies as neurodivergent.
At the time, I was studying for my Masters degree in Speech Pathology, and learning about breaking down the barriers that prevent people from participating within the community to the fullest. I became fixated on the idea of creating a theatre group that would completely rethink its approach to a production so that it was not only inclusive, but accessible to all. I wanted to make it “fair” for everyone.
To do this, I had to rethink every aspect of theatre production, from the auditions through to the performances. I researched autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorders, dyslexia, Tourette syndrome, mental health disorders; I talked to people who identified as neurodivergent about their experiences and asked for their ideas. It became a collaborative process that grows as our knowledge and understanding does.
The first production under the banner of Uncertain Curtain Theatre was Max Pry, Private Eye in 2018. When I started pre-production for Max Pry, I didn’t even have a director. All I had was a dream and an incredible amount of determination. At the first information session for Max Pry, Private Eye, I met a curious young woman dressed in bohemian-chic with bare feet. When she introduced herself to me, it was with a confident, “Hi, I’m Emily, and I want to direct your play”. Who was I to refuse? Emily soon became a wonderful source of knowledge of all things theatrical. When attempting to create an encouraging space for those who identify as neurodivergent, Emily was my sounding board. We would discuss ideas, then try them out to see if they worked. The cast of Max Pry, Private Eye understood that there would be a lot of trial and error throughout the production, but they persevered and gave us the feedback we needed to change for the better. Word got out about our little production, and it was a resounding success! Not only did the audience enjoy the show, but the performers had the time of their lives!
I now have pages and pages of research about making theatre accessible, inclusive and neurodiverse. I’ve created this blog to share these ideas, as well as posting stories from the cast and crew. I hope that this will encourage others to break down the barriers. Sometimes the world isn’t fair; so let’s make it fair for all!