In The News

Arts series explores disability in Shakespeare plays

This article originally appeared on ABC 7 Chicago’s website – video is also available there.

January 31, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) — Sunday night is the first Victory Gardens’ access project Crip Slam Sunday night series of 2010.

“Not Shaped for Sportive Tricks: Disability in Shakespeare” is the title of their show. Since 2005, members of the disabled community have been showcasing disability culture through performances, reading and other events.

The show will feature different scenes from Shakespeare’s plays as they reflect disabilities and characters will be performed by actors with and without disabilities.

Michael Herzovi and Matt Schwader are rehearsing a scene from Henry VI, Part 3.

“It’s a monologue that the Duke of Gloucester has when he’s trying to decide how powerful he wants to become, and we’re gonna be doing it as a dialogue,” said Schwader.

The idea of disability and Shakespeare was presented by Edward Wheatley, an English professor at Loyola University of Chicago.

“I suggested producing a couple of medieval plays that included characters with disabilities, specifically blindness, and that attracted a good audience for Crip Slam,” said Schwader.

Wheatley explains Shakespeare’s interpretation of disabilities.

“Interestingly enough, Richard III, who is fairly central in the evening that we’re doing here, was not actually disabled, but some of Richard III’s political detractors after he died picked up on that kind of post Richard II propaganda and created Richard II who is disabled,” said Wheatley.

Director Don Brearley says there are several other Shakespearian characters who are part of this.

“We are present Titus Andronicus and his sister-in-law Lavinia, who’s been maimed in a rape attack. And also Othello, who has experienced seizures, and Iago, his ancient as he’s called third in command, actually,” said Brearley.

Over the years, different themes have been part of Crip Slam Sundays. Mike Ervin is the co-director of VGT’s access project.

“We’ve done dance, we’ve done music, we’ve done movies, mostly we do performances. Anything we can do onstage,” said Ervin.

The reason why we chose the topic of Shakespeare is because one of the things we’ve done in Crip Slam is explore how people with disabilities have been depicted on stage more recently, as in plays by Beckett and Pinter, and more historically, such as in some plays from the medieval times and now Shakespeare.”

“Everyone likes seeing people having their best and worse days, and Shakespeare plays are full of people having just that,” said Brearley.

Tickets for the show Sunday night are $10. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Victory Gardens Theater is located at 2433 N. Lincoln in Chicago.

For more information you can go to