“Ich Bin Ein Schauspieler”: Making Crip Performance in Toronto with Theater HORA’s Disabled Theater

  • Stephen Fernandez Department of English, University of Waterloo


This paper attends to the making of crip performance in the 2015 production of Disabled Theater in Toronto, where eleven performers with intellectual and physical disabilities took to the stage to perform a series of dance solos set to popular music. The performance was directed by the French choreographer Jérôme Bel and produced by the Zurich-based Theater HORA, a professional theatre company that is fully comprised of performers with disabilities. As an experienced choreographer, Bel is portrayed in the performance program as the “brains” behind Disabled Theater. It seems as though the performers were simply executing Bel’s artistic ideas through the embodied materiality of their dance performances. As such, the performers’ desire to be seen as proper artists exists amid the specter of an ableist ideology in “normative” culture that could potentially influence the audience members’ interpretation of their dance solos. Drawing on the work of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Carrie Sandahl, and Robert McRuer on the intersection of disability and performance, as well as the Italian dramaturge Eugenio Barba’s concept of the “pre-expressive state” of the actor’s body, I argue that the inclusion of persons with disabilities who confidently describe themselves as “actors” through the German phrase, “Ich Bin Ein Schauspieler”, unfolds the possibility of crip performance in Disabled Theater, which, unlike an ableist conception of performance, acknowledges disability as a reality that is constitutive of everyday life. Through crip performance, persons with disabilities do not need to downplay their disability in order to be publicly acknowledged as artists.