What about hidden disabilities and theatre?

Convener: Clair Chapwell

Participants: Naomi Woddis, Michele Frankel, Frank Bock, Avril Hickman, Maggie McEwan, Emma Bernard, Sophie Woolley, Sheridan Humphreys, Zoe Gilmour (and others)

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

This was originally instigated as a discussion about ‘what is the creative potential around hidden disabilities (HD) within theatre’.

There was a certain amount of ‘coming out’ – people stating their hidden disabilities and why they did or did not come out. The conversation went quickly into the needs of companies who employed actors with HD. A general manager said that never would she discriminate against anyone with a hidden disability but there were certain things the company absolutely had to know from a health and safety point of view. The company could therefore allot breaks, and generally schedule rehearsals to respond to these needs. There was a certain amount of feedback from those with HD which indicated that they would feel disadvantaged by this knowledge being in the public domain.

Therefore the group came up with the following conclusions:

  • Theatre has a history of transforming pain and therefore it’s possible that art could be a transforming activity for HD
  • In theory employers should know about HD if they affect the work HOWEVER:
  1. this is up to the individual
  2. it’s everyone’s right to choose
  3. it can be a 2-edged sword
  • It was noted that sometimes there are assumptions on both sides, both pre and post disclosure and, depressingly, sometimes it gives people a whole new way to be prejudiced


Some discussion about making work about your disability

Actual disabilities discussed: Epilepsy, Diabetes, Dispraxia

Monitoring forms should ask more specific questions about the nature of a person’s disability.