After seeing a previous work by Niall, Veda, and I (Peter Panties at the 2011 PuSh Festival), Down Syndrome Research Foundation (DSRF) Executive Director Dawn McKenna called me. She said, “That was one of the most profound examples of creative inclusion I have ever experienced. If you do another project, please consider partnering with us.” So we did.
For three years Niall and I, and sometimes Jamie and Veda, have been working with folks who are clients of the DSRF. The idea when we began: to take the collaborative, artist-enabler model Niall and I have devised so we can make work together and see if we could use it to work across developmental difference with other people. The answer is yes. We met King Arthur’s Night cast members Tiffany, Andrew and Matthew through this process.
What surprised us along the way: Niall’s generosity as a teacher (in retrospect that shouldn’t have surprised us, but – I’ll admit – it did); the wild, full-on 45 minute improvisations we began doing on a regular basis, more fully committed and lived and experienced than any similar exercise I’ve ever done with professional actors; how much our professional rehearsal room would be changed (for the better) by rituals and exercises we developed during our DSRF classes and workshops.
What hasn’t surprised us: that art-making, and theatre in particular, seems like a natural place for people to come together to define new, radically inclusive ways of working together across historical presumptions about difference that have shunned and isolated and patronized large numbers of our fellow human beings for millennia.
An assumption we now use: every single one of us is very good at some things and very bad at others. No exceptions. All of us. Every single one.