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Colony Participants Part II: Why Here, Why Now?

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We continue our series about this unique version of the Writers’ Colony, featuring brief interviews with the participating artists.

PTC is convening its ninth annual Writers’ Colony in Vancouver, December 2-12, 2015 with playwrights Janet Hinton, Heidi Janz and Adam Warren. Also collaborating on Colony 2015 as dramaturg/directors are the co-artistic directors of Delinquent Theatre, Christine Qiuintana and Laura McLean.

For 2015, we are changing the format of the Colony to experiment with inclusive design. We hope to learn from, creatively support, and cross-pollinate with artists who identify with living with a disability, Deaf and/or Mad and artists living with labels and/or diagnoses. The five selected artists will join PTC’s inclusive designer Jan Derbyshire, Heidi Taylor, Kathleen Flaherty and Derek Chan to develop their projects. We’ll follow the inclusion design idea of “one size fits one” to create a development process that suits the needs of each team.

Janet Hinton’s play Aiming to Float puts a woman and her pain therapist in the impossible situation of negotiating their developing personal feelings in the context of what’s best for the therapeutic relationship.  In her play Showdown on Cripple Creek, Heidi Janz navigates a political minefield as members of an assisted living cooperative fight to maintain their right to govern their own lives.  Adam Warren’s play Last Train Inputs a man in a wheelchair on the wrong side of an empty commuter train station late at night, where he is compelled to admit the truth of how he feels about constantly negotiating his way through life.

We asked each Colony participant one question: What is the relevance for you of working on this play/project at the Colony at this time?

Heidi JanzHEIDI JANZ

“This opportunity to further develop Showdown on Cripple Creek at the Writers’ Colony came along at just the right time in the script’s development. That is one of the reasons I’m so excited to be part of this Colony. One of the things that I’ve always loved about theatre is that it’s a constant mix of solitary work and collaboration. Having spent the last year and a half working on this script, I feel like it’s at a point where it needs some in-depth exposure to fellow theatre artists in order for me to take it to the next level.

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO SPENDING TIME AT THE COLONY EXPLORING NOTIONS OF VULNERABILITY–PARTICULARLY THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE INTERRELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PHYSICAL VULNERABILITY AND SOCIAL VULNERABILITY IN THIS PLAY.

Showdown on Cripple Creek isn’t really a play about disability as much as it is a play about community, and what happens when the continued existence of a community is threatened. Nevertheless, disability does function as a central thematic element of the play in that the community under threat is made up exclusively of people with disabilities and the aides, family, and friends who support them in living self-determined, engaged lives. This has all the makings of a classic David-versus-Goliath battle, except that, in this case, “David” can’t even hold a slingshot! Least prepared or equipped for this battle is Creekview’s newest arrival, Alex. Newly disabled by a snowboarding accident, Alex feels compelled to join this battle to preserve his ability to live independently—even though, at an existential level, he remains deeply uncertain about whether any kind of life lived with disabilities is truly worth fighting for.

I’m looking forward to spending time at the Colony exploring notions of vulnerability–particularly the complexities of the interrelationship between physical vulnerability and social vulnerability in this play. I am also very much looking forward to meeting and working with fellow playwrights, and the reinfusion of creative energy that these kinds of collaborative opportunities inevitably engender.”

Watch the video Redefining Disability featuring Heidi Janz.

Dr. Heidi Janz is a writer/playwright based in Edmonton Alberta. Her writing focusses on making the experiences of people with disabilities accessible to audiences made up of both people with disabilities and people who are temporarily able-bodied. Her most recently produced plays include Voices at Dying, Dying to be Heard, produced in 2006 for the 16th International Congress on the Care of the Terminally Ill, Montreal, Quebec; and The Book of Jobes, co-produced by Kompany Family Theatre and Lone Sparrow Productions for the 2011 Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival, and for presentation by Calgary’s Fire Exit Theatre in their 2012-2013 season. Currently, she is working with Workshop West Playwrights’ Theatre in Edmonton on their This is YEG: Plays for a Changing City theatre-in-community project.

In her “other life,” Heidi Janz is an adjunct professor with John Dossetor Heath Ethics Centre and the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta, specializing in the field of Disability Ethics. Her PhD Dissertation was nominated for a Governor General’s Award, and she is the winner of the 2010 Tanis Doe Award for Canadian Disability Study and Culture. She was named Global TV’s Woman of Vision in May 2013. Heidi Janz also has cerebral palsy.

jan derbyshire 250x138JAN DERBYSHIRE

Jan is our experience designer for the ACK Lab inclusion project and guest dramaturg for one of the plays in the Colony.

“I have a feeling that we are doing everything wrong but we have to keep going.  Every problem we encounter is a success because these failures, these obstacles are showing us how important this work is. This work of holding space for artists of difference, artists who identify with the lived experience of disability (visible and invisible) is revealing such huge gaps in fair access both in making spaces and performance spaces and in practices that do not work well for others that are often treated as immovable givens. This could be in the expected hours of work in a day or the traditional ways that text is captured, spoken and changed. This is a disability justice issue. Laws and legislation have been in effect for decades but still we see negligent underrepresentation of artists with disabilities. What we are feeling is the stab of  ignoring the truth – that disability, as Jutta Treviranus of The Inclusive Design Research Centre writes, is a condition not a trait. And that we as theatre makers have co-signed agreements and created the conditions that keep persons with disabilities off our stages in word and deed. So here’s to the great closing of the chasm and the sharing of lessons learned when we are through. I am grateful for the participation of all the artists at this year’s Colony.”

Jan Derbyshire is an established multi-disciplinary artist, producer, inclusive designer and educator. She specializes in the design a facilitation and delivery of playful, inclusive, interactive, and participatory experiences that push forward ideas of diversity, belonging and interdependent communities. A self-motivated, enthusiastic communicator she is able to express ideas both in public presentations and writing with over 20 years experience working in professional and community arts and in issue based collaborations with non-profits, educational institutes and corporations. She draws from a background of stand-up comedy, playwriting, devised theatre, storytelling, interactive installation, game design, essay writing, and stage directing. She has produced projects locally, nationally and internationally. Jan Holds a Masters in Inclusive Design from OCAD University in Toronto.