CPIT-related theatre group features in prestigious journal
Leading international disability culture activist and scholar Petra Kuppers has written about her time with A Different Light Theatre Company, led by CPIT tutor Tony McCaffrey, in one of the world’s most prestigious performance journals.
Kuppers published her article, Disability Performance in the Streets; Art Actions in Post-Quake Christchurch in the recent Spring edition of The Drama Review, which is produced by New York University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Princeton University, Brown University and Shanghai Theatre Academy.
Drawing on her February 2014 trip to Christchurch, Kuppers writes about experiencing the Christchurch city centre, firstly with a memorial walk in which she braved the uneven pavements in her wheelchair, and then with a street performance with A Different Light Theatre Company, whose performers are deemed to have intellectual disabilities. “With A Different Light, I witnessed the ability of socially engaged art in a minor key to shake things up, to shake up concepts of disability, concepts of healing performance, of being alive and present in public.
Listening to the performers of A Different Light and witnessing their artful play in the city, I saw how we can recharge ourselves through the energies of performance,” she writes.
Tony McCaffrey’s work into disability performance, through the productions of A Different Light Theatre Company and his presentations at increasingly prestigious international conferences, have put Christchurch on the map in this field of research and performance.
This work has taken him to Shanghai, Paris and Chile and working with Kuppers was another highlight, he said. ““Petra is a world authority on disability performance and culture and it is great that, thanks to her visit and collaboration, we can see work done here in Christchurch and on the CPIT campus, work involving people who are often perceived as marginalized, reach such a wide audience in this world-class Performance Studies journal,” he said.
McCaffrey was pleased with the way Kuppers captured some of Christchurch performers’ experience in the TDR article. “Our actions in Christchurch reminded me of the energetics of acupuncture,” Kuppers wrote. “We pressed where it hurts, in the destroyed city, right in the memory spaces that had become empty and diffuse and laden with negative energy as people dealt with the Earth Quake Commission, insurance companies, and the many problems of resurrecting a city that did not seem to be recognizable or hospitable to all of its citizens.
Donning costumes and shifting energies became an act of citizenship, of a performative re-engagement with shifted space.”
For A Different Light the journey continues in Christchurch and overseas. The company has been invited to perform at the Oceania Performance Biennial/Performance Studies International conference in Rarotonga in July.