Exploration of Public Performance for Dialogue Around Disability Issues

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University



Dance performed by Lee Ann Etzold and Erin McNulty. Photo by Christy Beck.


Carol Csaniz signs A Fierce Kind of Love Town Hall Wall. Photo by Christy Beck.


Actor Lee Ann Etzold and aspiring actor Erin McNulty after reading a of A Fierce Kind of Love. Photo by Christy Beck.

The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University explored the potential of public performance to engage the larger community in a dialogue around disability issues and to forge connections beyond its main constituency of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Theater artist David Bradley, co-artistic director of the National Constitution Center's recent exhibition/theater hybrid Fighting for Democracy, and Suli Holum, playwright and founding member of Pig Iron Theatre Company, worked with the Institute to craft workshop versions of a performance piece, A Fierce Kind of Love. This work-in-progress tells the stories of self-advocates and parents who became "accidental warriors" in the late 20th-century movement, seeking to cultivate rights for children, adults and families affected by intellectual disabilities. Workshop Q&A sessions with the public have allowed the Institute to revise and refine its approach to the use of performance in stimulating conversation around issues of inclusion, institutionalization, and continued threats to programs that support people living with disabilities in Pennsylvania.