Ableism and diversities: The disabled body, actor training, and futures of inclusion

Ableism and diversities: The disabled body, actor training, and futures of inclusion

Allison provides the context for understanding how disabled bodies have traditionally been represented in the theatre, and proposes ways for increasingly complex and sophisticated ways of understanding and portraying disabilities on stage.

Ableism and diversities: The Disabled body, actor training, and futures of inclusion, by Allison Leadley, PhD Candidate at the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies, University of Toronto.

Allison Leadley

 Allison Leadley is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation, titled “Step Right Up: (Re)Imagining the Freak Show in Contemporary Performance and Disability Theory,” is an exploration of the appropriation of the freak show in contemporary North American performance with a particular focus on how these performances could be considered as a viable framework in which to contextualize broader discussions of disability and disabled embodiment. Allison’s research has been published by Playwright’s Canada Press and in Magazine. 




  1. How might stagings of historical play texts include equitable representations around so-called ‘impaired’ bodies?
  2. What is the risk of casting actors who are not ‘impaired’ in roles of ‘impaired’ subjects?
  3. How does the lack of accessibility in many theatre settings reflect the greater systematic hurdles ‘impaired’ persons face?
  4. How do artists like Mat Fraser use old conceptualizations of disability to expand and question ‘traditional’ views of what disability is?

References and Resources

Austin, J.L. How To Do Things With Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962. Print.
Bailey, Sally. Barrier­ Free Theatre: Including Everyone in Theatre Arts—in Schools, Recreation, and Arts Programs—Regardless of (Dis)AbilityEnumclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor, Inc. 2010.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. 1990 New York: Routledge, 2006.
Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchorbooks, 1961. 
Shakespeare, Tom. Disability Rights and Wrongs. Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, 2006.


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