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Arts and my imagination

I read an article in “The Atlantic” recently entitled “Disability Is Not Just a Metaphor”. The author, Christopher Shinn, comments on “able-bodied actors playing disabled characters”.

Shinn states, “We are not witnessing the actual pain and struggle of real disabled human beings; it is all make believe.”

I understand that actors who self identify as persons with disabilities find few opportunities. Shinn’s comments that the obvious absence of people with real disabilities lessens the potential power of works about disability concerns me. All art is make believe. Prose, poetry, theatre, painting, sculpture, they all force us to suspend our individual “real” and step into our imaginations. If we insist on including “real” in art we run the risk of lessening the impact art can and should have.

Following the argument that actors that self identify as persons with disabilities should be portraying characters with disabilities, should then only actors who are widows or widowers play widows or widowers? Should only actors who have participated in armed combat play soldiers? Should only actors who have a mental illness portray characters with mental illness?

In my ideal world, all actors would have equal opportunity auditioning for any role. Ability, disability, height, weight, race, health, ....., would not play a role in the selection process. In my ideal world, the subject matter would be well researched, the actor would seek input and inspiration from reliable and valid sources. Selection of a suitable actor, or even a suitable candidate for any job, would be based on that individual’s capability to perform, not on the presence or absence of a disability. In my ideal world, opportunities would be shared equally.

Perhaps my ideal world exists only in my imagination - right beside the arts.


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