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Our Stories: (re)imagining Disability Futures Through Autobiographical Performance by Neurodiverse Artists

GRADUATE PROGRAM IN THEATRE AND PERFORMANCE STUDIES at YORK UNIVERSITY in TORONTO, ON – August 2023

Our Stories: (re)imagining Disability Futures Through Autobiographical Performance by Neurodiverse Artists

AUTHOR(S)

Becky Lauren Gold

ABSTRACT

In response to the lack of neurodivergent (self)representation on Canadian stages, this dissertation explores autobiographical performance as a vehicle for self-advocacy and imagining disability futures differently. Over seven months in 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I brought four neurodivergent artists together on Zoom to co-create a performance piece about their lived experience. What emerged was Our Stories, a presentation of autobiographical storytelling that uses song, dance, poetry, and theatrical monologue to reflect upon and respond to these artists’ past and present experiences, as well as their goals for the future. Shaped methodologically by performance ethnography, this project illustrates the significance of the in-between moments and the learning that can emerge through the process of devising and creating new work with an interabled team. Each chapter of this dissertation illuminates the process of co-creating Our Stories while contextualizing the themes and findings that emerged in relation to existing scholarly discourse. Chapter 1 offers an overview of the interdisciplinary fields of research that informed this project and highlights the most salient scholarship. Chapter 2 explores the process of creating Our Stories and reflects upon accessible co-creation strategies and working within non-normative temporalities and structures. Chapter 3 engages in depth with the completed work and serves as a kind of script analysis, offering further context for the creative decisions made and highlights themes of representation, autonomy, and authorship. Chapter 4 discusses what happened after the presentation of Our Stories, how care and relations were maintained even after the formal research project had concluded and what this means in the context of public allyship and interabled friendship.

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