8th May 2021
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Peter Royston: Disability and Accessibility in the Arts – Webinar Transcription

Peter Royston
By Guest Contributor

This is a transcription of a TheatreArtLife Webinar with Peter Royston that we recorded on January 5, 2021.

You can also watch the session here:

Peter Royston, he/him/his is an equity stage manager based in New York and originally from the Bay Area. His credits include Blue Man Group, The Public Theater, The Lark, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and TheatreWorks among many others since 2017. Peter has become a vocal advocate and ally to the disabled community, specifically through his lived experiences as a white gay man with cerebral palsy.

Interviewer: I would like to start with a very simple perspective in terms of defining disability. For you, what is your definition? What is the best way for people to talk about it? What terminology? What approach should everyone have when they are bringing up the topic of people with disabilities?

Peter: Yeah. Well, first is when I give a description of myself for some of the folks that I am a white male with glasses and I have short brown hair and today I am wearing a blue Paisley shirt. I am sitting on a red couch, which you may see, and I am in front of the grey wall. There is a little blue picture on the wall as well. My preferred pronouns are he/him. To start off with the two main definitions of ableism and disability, I think it would be good just to pull up the slides for this.

I will read this off to you. Our first slide is on a blue background and there are a few blue squares in the top right corner. The definition is written in white. This is a definition of ableism.

It is a system that places value on people’s bodies and minds, based on societally constructed ideas for normalcy, intelligence, excellence, and productivity. These constructed ideas are deeply rooted in anti-blackness, eugenics, colonialism, and capitalism. This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable and worthy based on a person’s appearance and/or ability to satisfactorily reproduce, excel, and behave. You do not have to be part of… You do not have to be disabled to experience ableism.

During a quarantine this past summer, I was part of the Crip Camp virtual experience which was taken out in response to the Crip Camp documentary that was produced on Netflix. It was a group of disabled leaders talking to the disabled community and I found this definition very important.

Disability is our next slide. It has a white backdrop. The disability is in pink. There is some pink squares in the right corner and a blue line at the bottom. A disability is a condition which makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities or interact with the world around them. These conditions or impairments may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or a combination of multiple factors. Impairments causing disability may be present from birth or occur during a person’s lifetime. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities defines disability as long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder a person’s full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

I do think what is important in the disability definition- something to be aware of is that it is the largest minority and about twenty-five percent of the population identifies as disabled. How that relates to theater is about five percent of roles in film are disabled characters and about one percent of those are given to disabled actors.

Interviewer: Wow. Do you have the science- Is there similar statistics in live theater or that is not really quantified?

Peter: I do not want to speak clearly, but I think that was overall in performing it.

Interviewer: Okay, so film and theater.

Peter: Based on the surveys, the state management survey, and our diversity report from Actors’ Equity, which is the American, not the full global, about five percent of the stage managers identify as disabled. There is a margin of error because there are some people that choose not to answer that question, which until about 2017, I was one of those people.

Interviewer: How do you feel personally about those statistics, especially given the fact that some of the roles of people say playing disabled people are not actually being played by disabled people? How do you feel about that?

Peter: I think that it is sad because I think that there is an untapped resource in talent, and stories, and moving the world and our community and our industry into a more equitable space. There are answers in how to make theater and the world more accessible. That conversation needs to be had with the disabled community that there has been a very- there has been a social upheaval, a social reckoning, and this country.

I think it is extended to some that goes around the world and that those conversations about what is equitable, and fair, and safe. That conversation needs to include accessibility or you are not addressing the full anti-oppression practices.

Interviewer: I really think this is what I really want to dig in today and think about how can individuals and also companies talk about accessibility inclusion in the Arts. Before we get into those what we are doing and how do people work on that because it is a huge thing to unpack actually here for hours. Tell us a little bit about your experience if you are willing to share, in how your disabilities influenced your career. Again, specifically, not in terms of what you think you are capable of whatever but external influences and the perception of disability in your world.

Peter: Yeah, well something that I need to know is that I do hold privilege. I have been somebody that has been able to pass as an able-bodied person in a lot of circumstances. I have limited mobility on my right side and that affects me differently based on when I am tired or when I am overwhelmed or when I am stressed. I have definitely experienced two instances that I can, for example, one was at the beginning of my career and I was working on a new regional theater. We were doing our first rehearsal. We step through the transition and I was able to do it
but the director did not like the way I did it. At the end of the rehearsal, the production stage manager said, “I am sorry you are not going to be able to do this. Oh, that is the way theater is.”

At that time, I took that in. It is like people make their choices but in terms of who is capable of that job, I was able to do the transition. The only reason why, was that the first time I did it, it did not look smooth. There are a few things to unpack just in that circumstance that one, like it could take anybody more than one time to make something work well and look smooth and maybe it looks a little bit different the first time. Then, also, how do you judge what that picture is supposed to look like, and do you want to include a diverse group of mobilities, as well as people on stage?

I think, also related to that experience, was the main actor was pegged as a diva by the other assistant and the crew. They spend a lot of time complaining about how difficult she was and I usually take that as a call to find out how to work with somebody. We worked with her and one of the things that you asked for was to have a blanket thrown over her at the end of the show. She was on stage. Her kids were dying. She had been on stage. She has this momentous epic performance and she wants a blanket thrown over, so I did that every night. At the end of the run, she gave me a hug and said, “Thank you so much for your love.”

I know that that same courtesy was not related to my colleague. I think that it is interesting just like in my reason why I am sort of saying this is that I am curious where I would like to ask one of the questions of what you consider. What is the best? Who is the best? Who is most able to do a job? What do you really need from the stage manager? What does that vary in? Do you need all types of abilities and what is it?

Interviewer: Before you get onto that second example, I think this year you are saying that you feel that shift has been made, in terms of people want to have a bit more representation in diversity and a bit more of a real mirror of real-life. You think that 2020 has been, we are in 2021, but 2020 was a time for us to stop, breathe, and take a look at that.

Peter: Yeah, I think we are giving an opportunity to look at how we structure theater and ask ourselves questions. My hope is that there will be flexibility and that will be an ongoing conversation. There is not just one way that we can change everything and that will not work for everyone, but it is asking everybody, “What are your access needs?” and “How can we best serve you?” Do you want those because if you do want a diverse group of people and if you do want everyone to excel and to bring all their ideas into work in a collaborative environment, you need to allow for that space and different people need different things.

Interviewer: Different people have different things to offer as well. Right? Tell us about that second example that you have had in your career.

Peter: More recently, I went to an interview and I was waiting- sitting at the bench. The person came up- interviewer came up to me, and went to shake my hand, and I shook her hand. She immediately clocked me and I just… She gave me a look and we went on with our interview and it was a fine interview. There was not- I do not know if we… I will just leave it.

Then, she asked my references and I got a call from one of my references that said that the interviewer had asked if – what was wrong with me, did I have a debilitating disease, and how is it going to affect my work. From my perspective, if somebody really wanted to know who was concerned, you would ask me at the interview. I think since that time, I have tried to come out and just be open with what that I have cerebral palsy, what my needs are, what my access needs are, and to open up that conversation, but still at that time and even now, I am very curious about how people talk about it and what kind of misconceptions and stigmas people have about disability.

Interviewer: Do you think that it comes from a sense of – it is hard to really say I guess, but a lot of people who are quite ignorant about disabilities, and how they work, and what people are capable of, are a bit awkward about having that conversation and you said that you now bring that up in your interviews potentially maybe to cut that off at the pass. How would somebody who is interviewing you… How would you want to be approached?

Peter: Why I think it will be open-ended questions. I think also leading by example, so one thing I also did not do was start off and say what my access needs are, which is something that I hope gets included in the conversation of introductions, when we add our preferred pronouns, and a visual description.

My access needs are that I have limited mobility on my right side which means that in stage management, I will need to work out if I do cue lights or how the booth is set up or backstage choreography, but I can figure that out. I have aphasia so when I am tired or overwhelmed, I may stutter or slur. Also, that extends to written work so if I am going to send out a mass email to the entire chorus and on to the entire company at twelve o’clock at night, somebody should probably check that, or they need to be aware if there is a dumb error that is why it is not because Peter or somebody with aphasia is not detail-oriented, does not know what the information was, did not check themselves. It is because of this condition.

Interviewer: Well, I think I could join you in having sent dumb emails at midnight as well.

Peter: Since I have talked about that in interviews, you know, pretty much every stage manager says that and it is nice to relieve that stress, but also as somebody who has been surrounded all their life by internalized ableism and basically growing up trying to be normal instead of actually just being the best- just being Peter that affects me but it is nice to just open that up. Of course, we all laugh and we work it all out. Since I have been more open about my disability, I feel much more at home, and I see how it is exciting to find out to see how you can creatively put together, do your work, and why you are different like I get it. I get to do the show a little bit differently. How I ended up calling how- how I ended up learning Blue Man Group is different than how most people do. I have to do a few different things than most people do. I am actually especially unique and I have a little bit different flavor, of course, of calling a show. Then, the other stage managers as we all do, we all have our own styles.

Interviewer: Yeah, absolutely. I think your point is also to – you know, this is something that a mistake for me I can maybe brush off as a bad mistake at midnight, but for you, you become self-conscious about that because it might reflect on what people may judge. Am I right? What people may judge about you because that mistake was made, and so how did you build or how do you recommend people build confidence in talking about their disability or their accessibility needs?

Peter: I think knowing yourself, and knowing what you need, and knowing that it is okay to actually state what you need, it is actually a sign of strength to say what you do need and what you are capable of. It is not a weakness. That time I feel like I have gained strength by getting more and more used to talking about what I need, and how it will affect the work, and of course, each show is different.

Some things may never come up; sometimes there is no error. Well, there is no problem or there is nothing really for me. I can figure out my physical space well or what I need to do easily. If there is a question like what was left what I felt like was with the trigger even in the interview, someone does not know exactly what is going on too.

That also leads them up to wonder and to be concerned. I am open then that relieves the stress. That is what this is so I am doing this. It is nothing. I am capable of stage managing a show. I have called to show. I have worked with many different kinds of companies. I know I can do my work. Why are you concerned though? This is why and it does not affect my work but this is how it will show up in certain instances.

Interviewer: Yeah, let them know what they are going to see and experience from your perspective.

Peter: Yeah.

Interviewer: In terms of… It is a big topic because I think about accessibility and inclusion in the arts and every – you know, you said ableism and disabilities. It is a very broad spectrum, right? Your needs are different from somebody who may be on the spectrum or a different disability, etc. Where do we start? Where do we start in being more inclusive?

Peter: I think that we may want to show this later. There is a great article that Ryan J. Haddad shared, which is the Disability Scorecard, but I think also before that, there are just a few basic questions that I think I have a slide for, which I think are questions you can ask yourself or your company.

This is something that Ryan J. Haddad, who is a writer and actor, wrote to and published in the American Theater magazine, as well as the Long Wharf Theatre. I think it is a great place to start and ask if theatre questions were to be aware of. We can go to them.

This slide is blue and there is a pink backdrop for the words. Ryan J. Haddad, as a playwright and actor with cerebral palsy, wrote the Disability Scorecard. It was published on AmericanTheater.org. “We are tired of being tertiary. Here is a partial list of ways to center
disabled artists and audiences going forward.”

This slide is a pink backdrop, with a yellow highlight for Disability Scorecard at the top. The list of requests for questions is in white writing- program work by disabled playwrights; program work prominently featuring disabled characters; even if the character is not explicitly identified as disabled, but the action of the play or context of the story suggests that they might be, please stop and ask yourself, “Wait, is this actually a disabled character?” Sometimes the answer is yes, make subsequent creative decisions accordingly; cast disabled actors to play disabled characters, I mean, of course, but I had to say it, Hollywood is still guilty and sometimes theater is too.

I do not have the sense of humor that is in some of these, which is where I am. “Cast disabled actors and play characters not written to be disabled.”

“If you programmed a play that featured disability five seasons ago, or four or three or two seasons ago, that is not enough. It is irresponsible to virtually ignore an entire community for years at a time and you can not use one positive example from the past to justify the absence of inclusion in the present or future. Consistency is crucial. You have to keep searching for the projects, stories, and talent that will bring disability to your stages.”

“A piece of theater can still represent disability without being about disability; hire disabled directors and choreographers; hire disabled designers and technicians.”

This one is at a yellow backdrop and the highlight is in green for Disability Scorecard.

“If your scenic designer begins prior to your casting process, ask if the accessibility of your design concept excludes performers with certain mobility disabilities from being in your play or musical. If the concept is exclusionary, consider a more universally designed approach.”

“Hire disabled stage managers. Disabled people are great at problem-solving because we have constantly adapted to a world that is not built for us.”

“Hire disabled front-of-house, box-office, and full-time administrative staff; if you require a disability consultant, hire one, it is not every disabled person’s job to act as a disability consultant, particularly if they are not being compensated for that role; do better than the minimum when it comes to audience accessibility.”

Then, just for the front-of-house, which I think was touched on in a previous level hereto – “accessibility is about so much more than mobility. Audience accessibility includes but is not limited to audio description and large-print playbills for blind and low-vision patrons; captioning, preferably open caption, and sign language interpretation for the deaf and hard-of- hearing patrons, these do not cancel each other out, they are different services and different people need different things, so please plan to offer both, along with assistive listening devices; relaxed performances for autistic and neurodiverse patrons.”

That is available on the American Theater magazine. If you want to see Ryan’s full article, and I think that list pretty much or at least touches on most of the main or all of the main points related to theater. I think that the key to all is that- there is a minimum work that can be done and there is like keeping on asking yourself to get better. I think that is an internal question that you need to ask like, “How do you work?” and “How do you set up your production if you are a gatekeeper or a manager?” and “Are you doing the minimum, or are you actually reaching out?” and “What do you actually want?”

If you really want an equitable space that works for everyone, you need to address ableism, which is rampant and sometimes not totally obvious. It is a hidden… It has overlooked minority. It is an overlooked issue in a lot of circumstances.

Interviewer: That is great. If we are talking about that from a producer’s point of view or a company manager, that they might have ways and means to execute on that task list, what about those who are in the cast or a backstage technician or a lighting person, who are not there – who cannot influence that necessarily, but how could they become an ally to that community while being in the arts?

Peter: I think addressing the issues and asking yourself. It is kind of like a question. These questions just like – have you announced your needs and goals and priorities? Have you lived by an example? Are your needs in alignment with the rest of your team? Have you looked at your production calendar and seeing that it works for everyone? Can you shift that calendar if it needs to? How do you allow for the proper planning of a piece? Are you aware of everyone else’s access needs?

I think also that the main issues to just be aware of is that – there is a time like, “how much time does it take to set up space, and the planning, and direct communication?” I think a lot of those ideas seem like there is a conception that if you have to accommodate something for a disabled person, that it will take more time, that it would cost more, and that is also another stigma. I think if you are trying, as an individual, to open up and be an ally to the community, then you address those needs and be aware of the facts.

Interviewer: Learn a lot about and speak to people like yourself and other people, that have been living and exists in that world, so that you understand what their needs are, right? You can support them. If you are working with Peter, we can come and have that conversation with you, right?

Peter: Yeah, and there are so much varied experiences. I know several people with cerebral palsy. How it presents itself and how it affects their lives is different. Also, what they do is different. Like Ryan J. Haddad is one person. He and Gregg Mozgala were other people, who are definitely that person. How that physically looks and how that affects us from an intellectual perspective is also different. Each person experiences differently which is why I think it is very helpful and important to give access needs and to open up that discussion.

I think one really easy way to be an ally is to actually state your access needs and also ask someone else too. Do you have any access needs? Is there any way else we can support you? I think having an open honest conversation is really helpful. I think it is also an untapped exciting
project to really build up our community and our theatre industry at this point, to work towards being fully accessible to all. We are not actually there yet, addressing other systems of oppression that I have come up in the past year. Unless we are addressing this, we are still not there yet.

If we leave this out, we have missed the ball this year.

Interviewer: Katie Anna McConnell says we also need to ban non-readmissions policies and theaters. It’s such a huge barrier for some disabilities. Do you mean Katie? If you people leave the theater, then they can not come back in? I guess that is the thing. I think, from country to country and place to place, that can be something that is a rule.

If people do they could need to take a bit of time out, you know when we spoke about its full theater last week and we talked about neuro-diverse audience members, sometimes they need to take a little break from the stimulation. In an ideal world, every theater show is accessible for neuro-diverse, and that there is a certain, would you say expectation on theater behavior and protocol? Oh, it is not a written protocol. There is a lot of people that comment on, you know, really coming.

Peter: Some shows like, even I know, even just in another perspective to is that how people watch theater too is different. Some of those conversations have been had. Even with Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, the director and the creative person for the show said to allow anybody to express themselves however they wanted to and experience a theater. It was not that you to be quiet, and do not clap and laugh and engage with the show. There are these strict systems in place of how we have to attend the theater, how we have to go to the theater, and how we go through that, how we perform, and that perhaps there are alternate ways to do that, and perhaps we can do that in different ways.

I do think that though the non-readmitted thing is something that should be addressed, that doing one autism-friendly performance, and then one closed-captioned performance, is technically not enough. I know that there are different ways that people have to look at how they move towards, having that more accessible to more disability community. I have seen one theater that they do have a few specific performances. Then also, if you can not make it, they have the services to give you closed captions on a device where they can arrange it for you. You come on any night that they do not want to exclude you if you can not make that specific night. I think that is also important.

Interviewer: It is interesting for me because I am speaking to you from the other side of the world, and also audiences around the world have different flavors, and expectations, and behaviors. I have lived in a world that lacks what you are talking about. Hating that expectation
that people can not come back in, although I have worked on shows where that was back in Australia, where that was certainly the protocol. I worked on a show in Asia where we denounce no cell phones at the start of the show, and the minute that the show started, there are a million cell phones coming out to video the opening of the show and there is nothing you could do about it.

I feel like I am quite relaxed in that and I enjoy the audience being as participatory in the process, but I also understand that the reverence that people have in the theater. There is got to be a happy medium in terms of allowing that. There is certainly something that I think about when I have taken my young children. My son is a very specific kind of child as well, and I have always been a little bit anxious to take him to theater and have him behave appropriately. It is a difficult thing as a parent to become self-conscious about that, and you want to be welcomed into the theatre. I think in a certain sense, although I can not identify with your stories, Peter, I have experienced that in some way, shape, or form.

It is really important that we try to do as much as possible for people who have disabilities and having issues in terms of their own workplace success. Is there a support network or resources that people can get, specifically for the arts that people can get or make strides in with their work because there are those resources available? I mean, maybe I will just talk about the States because you probably do not know about anywhere else, but for you, if you had support.

Peter: Well, I have reached out to people and there is definitely… I have support from several performers and I feel like I have connections through that. Definitely going through the Crip Camp group. I have gained some other connections, and I think that is where I found especially talking about disability, more resources, or support. Definitely, other people who are colleagues of mine and friends of mine who fit in other intersections of oppression, I also feel a lot of support from them and we get a lot of strength.

One thing that I am still missing is having a larger network of disabled stage managers, specifically. As of now, I know three people, so I hope that opens up as more people feel more comfortable to talk about their disability and their experiences, because I know they are out there. I think that is it.

Interviewer: Well, that is fun. What would be your hopes for the industry moving forward post-2020, and in the next five years with regards to disability and accessibility?

Peter: I hope that people address the items listed in the Disability Scorecard and that there is representation in all aspects of our industry. That includes the critics, that includes the directors, like all aspects of it. I hope that able-bodied colleagues hold themselves accountable and I think that doing one play by one disabled person is not enough. I do hope that, as a reminder, if you are not addressing ableism, then you are not addressing anti-racism fully.

Interviewer: Diana has a good question. How would you recommend for stage managers assisting, collecting information, or what everyone’s access needs are and then keeping that private? With that in mind, would it be a good idea to ask what your access needs are on the audition sheet? What what would you think to do that?

Peter: Well, yeah, and that is something I think we did not talk about. I have a little bit of difficulty with disability being in a private matter. I think that is part of the problem and that becomes this gray area because I think there is also a difference between disability and disease
and other health matters. It is personal for everyone and if somebody does not want to disclose it, then they do not have to. I would say what I envision is that when we do introductions at the beginning of the day or the first rehearsal and you do your meet and greet, and you say, “Hi. My name is Peter. My pronouns are he/him/his. I am a white male with glasses and brown hair and a blue shirt. I am currently on the Land of the Lunada Bay. Also, my access needs are something to be aware of is that, I have cerebral palsy, which affects my right side, and I have aphasia, so if my speech gets slurred or if you get an email from me that has a few errors in it, that is what that is.”

You can look at that and say some other things may come up, but we will address those as we move forward. Please share any excess news that you feel comfortable expressing. If you do not feel comfortable expressing them, you can put it in your intake sheet or you can come talk to me privately. I think that is about setting up a safe space to also allow people to come talk to you about it. If people do not know that you are even aware of it, whether you care, no one may ask. Some people may not be even aware of it and some people also may have different access needs as the process goes on. It might not even be aware of it. I do not think it is necessarily even just about the disabled. You do not have to be disabled to have access needs.

Interviewer: You are right. Thank you for that. Amy also asked, instead of retroactivity include accessibility in the creation of the production created internships for disabled students, to get more disabled people involved in the industry, which is a good point because maybe people do not go into the industry, and from the outset because they feel that it is not for them or it is not inclusive enough. Do you think it should start earlier than it does?

Peter: For…

Interviewer: The education and opportunities for people with disabilities, and offering internships, getting them to encourage them in schools, and say universities to be in the arts, I guess.

Peter: Definitely, for America’s perspective of all, I have been very – I always look to other countries or something to have theater training in the art. That is just mandatory for everyone at a plenary stage. I think when you are exposed to the arts and to the theater right away, then you either figure out if you want to be a part of it and if you want to have a voice in it. I can not speak for what it is like in other places but I think that opening up and having that open discussion of- “do you want to try this?” and finding a way to do that, would be really helpful and have more openness, to see what people are capable of instead of telling people, “No,” I think that is more of a cultural shift that could shift in open up.

None of these things is just going to be one answer and we solve it and we set up space and it is going to solve all the problems and issues. As long as we are human beings, this is going to be an issue that needs to be worked on but right now it is not being worked on. I think that is
why it is actually creative. It is the ongoing creative project to be anti-racist, to be anti- oppressive, to be like battle anti-ableism practices, and to have a more equitable space that uplifts everybody and have new voices.

Interviewer: I totally agree. It is a good point you make about the cultural, you know from culture to culture. There are certain levels of people addressing these issues and I will not name countries or places that I have worked with. There are people… There are places that are very, very far from even having a conversation like this. It does take people to participate, advocate, and push for those changes.

For example, just on a base value, you have ever been to Hong Kong, I do not know how anyone with a wheelchair gets around Hong Kong like I have zero clue because there is just no access for the stairs everywhere. You have to walk everywhere. I do not even know how would anybody do that, and yet I am sure, there are lots of disabled people in Hong Kong. That is just not a city that has been designed, and the infrastructure is not there to let people even get around the city, and we are not even talking about the arts, right?

That layers and I think that is why I am really enjoying these conversations. They are serious about accessibility because I am learning a lot. If you do not know about it, and if you are not learning about it, then you can not advocate for it. Ignorance is really…You can not do anything when you do not know. These are the reasons why we are trying to have these conversations.

I want to flip the flipped side of what you hope for the industry. Before I want to ask you your concerns about the industry moving forward, what I would feel my concern is – yes, we have had the time to have this conversation now, when we come back to putting shows on, people are going to be at tighter budgets and more ruthless. Even though we have been advocating for this now, is there going to be the space and the time? I want to touch on the point that you said before, it is not necessarily a cost impacting thing to be more accessible. Would you have those same concerns or am I being silly because they are ignorant, right?

Peter: Yeah. I mean, there is definitely physical… especially in New York theater. You can say that they have addressed access needs for people with mobility issues at the theater and even just getting around the city. That is something that is like a bigger issue, but there is so much more to this. That is why the main issue when someone asks for accessible accommodation, that it is not a cost. It is not usually very much of a cost at all or anything.

I think my concern for the future is that disabled people still continue to be tertiary objects in space. That disability is left out at conversations. Even in something that got a lot of likes and raised and supported the Actor’s Fund, this past week was the Ratatouille TikTok Musical and list of upholding voices. They excluded disability from listing, bringing out new voices and minority groups. My fear is that after this Great Awakening, after 2020, many of the able-bodied colleagues that I have will keep on addressing anti-racism without considering the other effects of that, which also includes a terrorism with ableism.

Interviewer: No, that is – sorry, keep going.

Peter: Yeah, I think that is it. Sorry.

Interviewer: Yeah, and so, what can we do? What kind of work can TheatreArtLife do? What can people here listening do? I know we talked about being an advocate or anything like that, but how do we stay on this topic? How do we continue to push this one?

Peter: I think you need to care. You need to listen. You need to set up a safe space. I think the access check-in is very helpful, and I think you learn about disability yourself. There are several wonderful podcasts. There is a Disability Visibility podcast, which is by Alice Wong. They have all different areas of conversation around disability and intersectionality or related to disability and all areas of creative development.

There is one that I listened to recently with Gaming Gamers. There are so many different aspects and I am just one voice as a stage manager, my own experience. I think having more voices because it is so varied and there is so much greatness to keep having the conversation to search for those people and to follow them and like them. There are a lot of great conversations to be had and there are a lot of similar sentiments that people have had with different flavors. I think that when we keep on holding this as a priority in our minds, things will change.

Interviewer: Absolutely, you remind me when you say that. We did a podcast earlier in the year on Black Lives Matter. One of our speakers had said, “Empathy is a passing emotion, but compassion is forever.” It really struck me and it still sits with me today in the fact that if you are a compassionate person, that tenacity to work on those things does not go away. Whereas empathy, you can see a disaster on the news and you can be empathetic to whatever that disaster is but it is a passing thing. You know, compassion is something that stays with you. I feel like that is what I want to move forward with TheatreArtLife.

Also, talking with people like you, to continue that conversation and continue to advocate for that on our website and get more accessible closed captions, all of the things. Thank you so much, Peter, for sharing your knowledge, your experience, and your advice with this today. I really, really appreciate it.


Also on TheatreArtLife:

Accessibility at the Smith Center Series: Part Three

Accessibility at the Smith Center Series: Part Two

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