Why Should Theatre Be Accessible?

I think it is safe to say that my mother knew that I was going to be the child that broke out of the family mold at a very young age, because frankly, there was and is no one else like me in the family (that I know of). While my family loved being in the audience of various plays and concerts, I wanted to participate and be center stage. And awesomely enough, I had a family that backed me up on my dreams. When I finally told them that I wanted to pursue a career in theatre, they didn’t try to talk me out of it. They gave me the thumbs up, and said “go for it.” I am one of the lucky ones.

It’s unfortunate to say that not everyone has the opportunity like me to be in theatre, and it’s not just because of someone’s family disapproval with the career. It can be a multitude of reasons, varying from racial discrimination in the theatre to non disability friendly locations and positions. I hate to say it, but my time in college forced me to realize that theatre is such a privileged field to go into, and not many people talk about it. Theatre, in its past and its present, is wrought with themes of racism, ableism, classism, misogyny and more. These issues leave only a small group of people to enjoy it, and an even smaller group to participate in it.

I didn’t just start caring simply because I was learning about it in my classes, but because it got thrust into my face. The theatre at my college was not friendly to those who had physical disabilities, to the point that no one could access the Upstairs Studio Theatre if they were in a wheelchair. Even if you didn’t have a wheelchair, the only real way you could get up to it was up a very steep flight of stairs, which made those with chronic pain (like yours truly) struggle. I had friends and fellow classmates becoming subject to type casting and discrimination as long as I have been in theatre, to the point that so many refused to even try out for plays because they don’t want to be looked at just because of their skin color; they simply wanted to be judged based on their abilities as actors. Sometimes, people just didn’t go at all, because they had mental disorders that made processing the words the actors said difficult, and they didn’t want to struggle to follow the plot, just because people attempted to force them into getting a ticket as a “show of support for the theatre.” And all of this is just scraping the surface of the multitude of issues that exist that I want to touch upon.

Right now, I’m giving you an incredibly brief overview of why I started to realize and care about these issues, but why I want this to be a life-long goal of mine to be one of the voices for change is as simple as this: theatre changed my life and gave me a purpose, and it breaks my heart that there are others out there that cannot at least get the same chance as I did growing up. I want to level the playing field, so that way kids and adults can try their hand at it, and if they truly love it, have the opportunity to pursue it. I hope that with my blog posts, and the discussions that are born from it, I want to takes the steps at changing how we view and educate about theatre.

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