An icon in US disability culture, the acclaimed playwright, poet, actor and dancer Neil Marcus, has told an audience at UNSW that 'Disability is an art - it is an ingenious way to live'.
The workshop Disability, Democracy, Media and Listening was co-hosted by UNSW's Disability Studies and Research Centre and the Journalism and Media Research Centre.*
Neil Marcus, who has a severe neurological disorder called dystonia, which makes it hard for him to speak, presented as part of the session on "Disability and Listening".
In a presentation which verged on performance art, he changed his T-shirt in front of the audience. This involved Neil getting onto the floor so that he could physically support himself.
The T-shirt he put on read: "Disability is not a 'brave struggle' or 'courage in the face of adversity. DISABILITY IS AN ART. It is an ingenious way to live."
Neil also sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by himself and then as a duet with another delegate at the event.
He spoke about the importance of people with disabilities surrounding themselves with people they love.
Neil Marcus is well known as a playwright. His show Storm Reading has been performed 300 times and won the United Nations Writer's Medal. He is still recognized on the street for his role in an episode of ER.
He has recently been involved in an award-winning videodance which looks at attitudes to disabled bodies and sensuality, and has co-authored a new poetry collection Cripple Poetics: A Love Story.
"Democracy is all about having your voice heard," said the Acting Director of the Centre, Rosemary Kayess. "It is critical that we have a thorough understanding of all communities and part of that communication process is listening. As such, listening has emerged as a key theme in contemporary understandings of disability."
*The event was sponsored by the ARC Cultural Research Network and the Transforming Cultures Research Centre at the University of Technology, Sydney.
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