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Drama: Theatre and Disability: Overview


In this guide

This guide is being developed to help provide a basis for research on theatre and disability.
Included are: library catalog search tips, selected books, book chapters, plays and films and more.

Library catalog search terms

Wide-topic search examples:
theater disabilities
theatre disabilities
drama disabilities

Subject headings:
Actors with disabilities
Autism in literature
Disability justice
Disability studies
Drama people with disabilties
Drama theraputic use (dramatherapy)
Human body in literature
People with disabilities
People with disabilities in the performing arts
People with disabilities psychology
People with disabilities rehabilitation
People with disabilities in mass media
Sociology of disability
Theatrical prosthetic makeup


Chapters in books

Kempe, Andy. "What Dramatic Literature Teaches about Disability"
Schonmann, Shifra. Key Concepts in Theatre/Drama Education . Leiden;: Brill , 2011. Web.

Lewis, Victoria Ann. "Disability and Access: A Manifesto for Actor Training" 
in  Margolis, Ellen, and Lissa Tylef Renaud. The Politics of American Actor Training . New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Amelia Cavallo and Maria Oshod. "Staring at Blindness: Pitch Black Theatre and Disability Led Performance" 
in Alston, Adam, and Martin Welton. Theatre in the Dark : Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre . London ;: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2017. Online

Natalie Russo, Melissa Luke, Kevin Heffernan, Luis Columna & Elizabeth Ingram. "A Community Based Theatre Arts Program for Adults With Disabilities: Evidence Through Tesearch, Observation and Individual Transformation" 
in Reason, Matthew, and Nick Rowe. Applied Practice : Evidence and Impact in Theatre, Music and Art London, UK: New York, NY, USA, 2017, Online

Michelle Duffy, Paul Atkinson and Nichola Wood. "Thresholds of Representation : Physical Disability in Dance and Perceptions of the Moving Body"
in Boyd, Candice P., and Christian Edwardes. Non-Representational Theory and the Creative Arts . Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

Meyer, Michael J. "Enable Us to Look Back: Performance and Disability in To Kill a Mockingbird" ; "Just One Kind of Folks:" The Normalizing Power of Disability in To Kill a Mockingbird"; "To Kill a Mockingbird: Perceptions of "the Other" in Meyer, Michael J. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird New Essays . Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2010






Lew, Mike. Teenage Dick . New York, NY: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 2019.
STACKS-2 (Stacks 2nd Floor) PS3612 .E948 T44 2019
Retelling of Shakespeare's Richard III, one of the most famous disabled characters in history is reimagined as a 16-year-old outsider taking on the political turmoil of high school

Nichols, Peter. A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.  London: Bloomsbury.
Drama Online and STACKS-2 (Stacks 2nd Floor) PR6064 .I2 D3 1967B

Whyte, Ron. Disability a Comedy. New York: Theatre Communications Group
STACKS-2 (Stacks 2nd Floor) PS3573 .H78 D5 1981

Play Databases

Searchable full-text plays online available to Carnegie Mellon users.

Asian American Drama
Contains the full-text of 250 plays by Asian American playwrights. It is searchable by author, play title, characters, scenes, subjects, years, productions, theatres, and companies. The database also contains playwright biographies, details on productions, theatres and theatrical companies, as well as production photographs, selected playbills and other information related to the plays.

Black Drama
Contains the full-text of 1200 plays by black playwrights. It is searchable by author, play title, characters, scenes, subjects, years, productions, theatres, and companies, including related resource and biographical information.

Contemporary World Drama
New work from Alexander Street Press existing playwright partners alongside work from up-and-coming playwrights from around the world, including recently produced world premieres and previously unpublished works from every continent.

North American Indian Drama
244 plays by 48 playwrights. More than half of the works are previously unpublished, representing groups such as Cherokee,
Métis, Creek, Choctaw, Pembina Chippewa, Ojibway, Lenape, Comanche, Cree, Navajo, Rappahannock, Hawaiian/Samoan, and others

Twentieth Century North American Drama is a growing full-text database, currently containing 850 plays including the complete works of major playwrights as well as plays by emerging playwrights. Searchable by keyword, author, play title, characters, scenes, subjects, years, productions, theaters, and companies. Additional information on playwrights, theaters, companies, productions and performances is included along with a selection of playbills, posters and other ephemera.


Drama Online
1550 plays: classic to contemporary; L.A. Theatre Works audio plays; Globe on Screen streaming video, more....

Explore this script discovery database brought  to you by the National New Play Network, an alliance of non-profit theaters dedicated to the development, production, and continued life of new plays.' Search plays by using any number of options including cast size, play length, age level, genre, subject matter, gender or sexual identity and ethnicity. Some scripts are available in full-text.
If a play in NPX is not accessible via the databCarnegie Mellon Libraries check The CMU Library Catalog and/or request a play for the University Libraries play collection:  contact Mo Dawley.


Play Index Online
Cites plays in published sources (1949-present) by subject, author, title, style, genre, cast type and more with plot summaries and musical, cast and scenery requirements. Includes one-act plays, pageants, plays in verse, radio and television plays and classic drama. Links to selected full-text plays on the web.



Crip Camp (International Documentary Association) On Netflix
"Just down the road from Woodstock, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers. Steeped in the humor and music of the era, Crip Camp explores the universal experience of summer camp awakenings that would transform lives and shape the future of the disability rights movement. Told from the point of view of former camper Jim LeBrecht, the film traces the journeys of campers up to the present day, in this compelling and untold story of a powerful journey towards inclusion."

Deaf Jam (Kanopy)
..."the story of deaf teen Aneta Brodski's bold journey into the spoken word slam scene. In a wondrous twist, Aneta, an Israeli immigrant living in the Queens section of New York City, eventually meets Tahani, a hearing Palestinian slam poet. The two women embark on a collaboration/performance duet creating a new form of slam poetry that speaks to both the hearing and the Deaf.

Enter the Faun (Tamar Rogoff Performance Projects)
" The unlikely collaboration between a veteran choreographer and a young actor with cerebral palsy delivers astonishing proof that each and every body is capable of miraculous transformation. As Tamar Rogoff trains Gregg Mozgala to become a dancer, they discover that her lack of formal medical training and his fears and physical limitations are not obstacles, but the impetus for their unprecedented discoveries."

Generation A: Portraits of Autism and the Arts (Kanopy)
Examines "how creative therapies and art programs in music, dance, art, animation, and more are being applied to stimulate the brain, encourage meaningful connections and social interaction, enhance speech and language, and build self-esteem."

Invitation to Dance: Disability in 21st Century America (Kanopy)
Kino Lorber. " traces Simi Linton's first reluctant foray onto the dance floor at a party to present day when dance has become a central theme in her social life, activism, and work. Ultimately, the film is a never-before-told coming out story of disabled people staking their claim to "equality, justice, and a place on the dance floor!"

Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty Right Now (Kanopy)
"Sins Invalid witnesses a performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists. Since 2006, its performances have explored themes of sexuality, beauty, and the disabled body, impacting thousands through live performance. Sins Invalid is as an entryway into the absurdly taboo topic of sexuality and disability, manifesting a new paradigm of disability justice."

Who Am I To Stop It: Transformation After Brain Injury (Kanopy)
Cheryl Green and Cynthia Lopez. "A documentary film on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury made by a filmmaker with disabilities from brain injury. It follows three artists as they navigate social isolation, stigma, and rebuilding their identities."

You Don't Need Feet to Dance (Kanopy)
Disabled African immigrant Sidiki Conde "manages to teach workshops for disabled kids, busk on the street, rehearse with his band, bicycle with his hands, and attend a naming ceremony, where he plays djembe drums, sings, and dances on his hands...proving to all You Don't Need Feet to Dance."

A New Kind of Listening: Disability Rights and the Power of Inclusive Arts (Kanopy)
Follows the collaborative work of the Community Inclusive Theater Group which " inspires cast members, some with disabilities and unable to speak, to be poets, actors and dancers."


A Community-Powered Learning Library and Alternative News Center For People Who Want To Change The WorldLinks to over 3000 films available online for free. The goal of this resource is "to provide citizens of the world with the information and perspectives essential for creating a more just, sustainable and democratic society." An extensive subject list allows you to focus in on your areas of interest.


For non-specific searches you might start by using keywords that express various concepts of interest paired with words like theater or theatre, performance, performance art, events, dance, music etc.). Ask for additional assistance:  Mo Dawley.

Disability in the Modern World
Comprehensive and international set of resources to enrich study of disabilty in a wide range of disciplines from media studies to philosophy.
At completion, Disability in the Modern World will include 150,000 pages of primary sources, supporting materials, and archives, along with 125 hours of video.

International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance with Full-Text
The online edition of the scholarly International Bibliography of Theatre.

Performing Arts Periodicals Database (formerly International Index to the Performing Arts)
Articles covering the arts and entertainment industry - including dance, drama, theater, stagecraft, musical theater, circus performance, opera, pantomime, puppetry, magic, performance art, film, television and more.
Coverage: 1864-current

For more article databases see Drama: Databases for Drama

Streaming Performance

Drama Online
1550 plays: classic to contemporary; L.A. Theatre Works audio plays; Globe on Screen streaming video, more....
High-quality films of full-length performances by current provocative artists working in dance, theater, music and other forms.

Dance Online: Dance in Video and documentaries with influential performers and companies of the 20th century. Includes ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, experimental, improvisational dance, and forerunners of the forms and the pioneers of modern concert dance;
search, browse, cite or bookmark videos to the moment; make custom clips, annotate and share them.

Theatre in Video
...definitive performances and documentaries in streaming video with leading actors, playwrights and directors covering a wide range of 20th century theatre history. Includes contemporary revivals of classic works, television broadcasts of New York productions, experimental performances and more; search, browse and bookmark scenes, monologues, and staging examples.

For more streaming options see Drama: Databases for Theatre

More media resources to explore

Disbilities Studies LibGuide Bow Valley College suggests these for more documentaries, multimedia content, educational podcasts and videos

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading
Films on Demand
National Public Radio
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation CBC Podcasts
Khan Academy Videos
CBC Ideas: Episodes Archive
University of California Berekely Videos and Podcasts
Stanford University on iTunesU
University of Oxford on iTunes U
Harvard University on iTunes U
University of Cambridge on iTunes U
Royal Societyor the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA): Videos
Curio (CBC)
National Film Board (NFB) CAMPUS


Organizations and Initiatives

Center of Applied Drama and Autism (Akron, Ohio)

Seeks to discover the uniqueness of studeants through individual al collaborative applied drama such as theatre games, improvisation, role play, character study, voice and body work, mask work (Commedia dell' Arte); and Play Back Theatre. Other creative efforts include student-created puppet plays, playwrighting and video production with visual art, dance and music as key components in productions.

Back to Back Theatre
"Over the last 30 years Back to Back Theatre has made a body of work that questions the assumptions of what is possible in theatre, but also the assumptions we hold about ourselves and others. As an ongoing dialogue with our audience, each new project is an investigation seeking answers to questions raised in previous works. Our attention lies with design, light, and sound. The stories we pursue weave the personal, the political and the cosmic. We work to curiosity and interest in the live moment, to what sits within and between."
Back to Back Theatre is based in Geelong, Australia.
Published book: Helena Grehan and Peter Eckersalll, eds. We're People Who Do Shows: Back to Back Theatre: Performance Politics Visibility. Performance Research Books, 2013.