Several months in the making, a collective of artists with disabilities has come together to launch National Disability Theatre, a company committed to exclusively hiring people who have disabilities and creating fully-accessible, world-class theatrical productions. This accessibility will be built directly into the fabric of each show's artistic designs.
NDT's co-executive directors are Talleri A. McRae, who has cerebral palsy, and Curious Incident star Mickey Rowe, who is on the autism spectrum.
The company's Advisory Company Members are Zach Anner, a writer and actor on Speechless; Micah Fowler (Speechless); Jamie Brewer (Amy and the Orphans and American Horror Story); Lawrence Carter-Long, who has generated media coverage for disability issues in such outlets as Associated Press, The New York Times, The Daily Show, and the BBC; Josh Castille (Spring Awakening); Kelsey Fowler (Grey Gardens, Sunday in the Park with George); Haben Girma, who is the first Deafblind Harvard Law graduate; Ryan J. Haddad (Hi, Are You Single?); Nicole Kelly, an amputee and Miss Iowa; John McGinty (Children of a Lesser God); Gregg Mozgala (Teenage Dick and The Cost of Living); Ali Stroker (Glee and Spring Awakening); Nic Novicki (Boardwalk Empire); Katy Sullivan, a paralympian and seen Off-Broadway in The Cost of Living; TED speaker Maysoon Zayid; and Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld).
NDT's first production will be A Midsummer Night's Dream in fall 2019 at a theatre to be announced.
NDT is currently seeking partnerships with existing regional theatres and performing arts institutions that will most likely involve NDT being a resident company for the duration of a production. Each performance will include open captioning, active listening systems, interpreters, audio description, and more.
The company also plans to use a co-production and co-commission model to commission playwrights with disabilities.
"A company producing large-scale professional work run entirely by people with disabilities will show the world that our differences really are our strengths,” says Rowe. “We will impact industries beyond our own, demonstrating that people with disabilities can efficiently and productively undertake professional work at the highest level and that accessibility is not only right—but also profitable. We want to flip the script and eliminate the single story of people with disabilities, showing that we are neither inspirational nor charity cases, just powerful and ferocious professionals.”
"Access and innovation go hand in hand," adds McRae. "Including people of all abilities is a wildly creative act."
For more information visit NationalDisabilityTheatre.org.