Home Events Postdoc Cassandra Hartblay Premieres Play: I Was Never Alone – October 2016
Credit Jim Carmody

Postdoc Cassandra Hartblay Premieres Play: I Was Never Alone – October 2016

Photo Credit: Jim Carmody

UCSD Communication Department congratulates Postdoc Cassandra Hartblay on the performance a new play, “I Was Never Alone” at the Shank Theater, in the UC San Diego Jacobs Theatre District on October 7 & 8th 2016. The performances are the culmination of a two week process workshop: September 25-October 8th.

The play was presented as part of an interdisciplinary project between the UC San Diego Department of Communication and Department of Theatre and Dance, made possible by the UC San Diego Frontiers of Innovation Scholarship Program (FISP). With support from the UC San Diego Office the Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, The Revolutions and Rebellions Working Group, and the Media Teaching Lab.

Directed by Joseph Megel

Written by Cassandra Hartblay

Original Score and Live Music by Vladimir Rudak

Crew: Assistant Director – Jason Dorwart, PhD Student, UCSD Dept of Theatre and Dance Dramaturg – Julie Burrelle, Assistant Professor, UCSD Dept of Theatre and Dance Choreography – Sam Mitchell, MfA Student, UCSD Dept of Theatre and Dance 5 Lighting Design – Joel Britt, MfA Student, UCSD Dept of Theatre and Dance Projection/Scenic Design – Charlie Jicha, MfA Student, UCSD Dept of Theatre and Dance

Cast: Judy Bauerlein (San Diego) Jason Dorwart (UCSD) Irina Dubova (San Diego) Reagan Linton (Montana, MfA from UCSD Dept of Theatre and Dance) Molly Maslak (San Diego) Andrew Monardo (Los Angeles) Samuel Valdez (Tijuana)

Blurb from the Press Release:

An international collaboration that brings together theatre professionals, researchers, and disability advocates in the US and Russia will bring is the first staging of I WAS NEVER ALONE, a documentary play based on interviews with people with disabilities in Russia, to the stage at UC San Diego this October.

The script takes the form of six monologues or portraits, comprised nearly entirely of quotes transcribed from ethnographic interviews with real people, whose life experiences form the inspiration for each character. Like other monologue-based works, the play offers the audience a chance to get to know the actors and characters intimately, and showcases the acting and directing talents of the participating artists.

The play is based on over 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork focused on the life experiences of adults living with mobility impairments in a provincial Russian city, during which time Dr. Cassandra Hartblay lived on site and worked collaboratively with the research participants in a small Russian city. Working in collaboration with research participants and creative collaborators with mobility and speech impairments there, and subsequently with Joseph Megel at UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Hartblay developed material from interview transcripts into the script for the play.

Most recently Dr. Hartblay traveled to Russia in July and worked in person with the research participants on whose stories the play is based to revise the script (in Russian translation).

The script has been workshopped in table readings at UNC Chapel Hill (May 2015), in the Studio for Ethnographic Design at UC San Diego (January 2016), and with research participants in Russia (July 2016). It was presented to the public in two staged readings following a oneweek workshop at UNC Chapel Hill with support from Performance Studies, the Department of Communication, Arts @ The Core, and Medical Anthropology. A video about that performance produced by Arts @ The Core is available online: https://vimeo.com/157601606, and a radio interview

While the subject matter of the play centers the segregation of people with disabilities, the themes in the work – love, family, alienation from politics, and the desire for connection in a digital world – are universal.

The performances that will take place at UCSD on October 8 & 9 2016 also offer an important moment for disability theater at UC San Diego. The project brings together faculty and graduate students across disciplines to consider issues of access and artistry that are specific to disability theater. The show casts both actors with and without disabilities in the title roles; unlike much Hollywood and theater casting, this show intentionally casts actors “against disability type” meaning that an actor with Cerebral Palsy may play a person with Traumatic Brain Injury.

Similarly, while most casting follows the general rule that an actor can play someone who is “more disabled” than his or her own embodiment, this project seeks to find instances in which an actor may play someone who is “less” disabled according to typical understandings of disability diagnoses; for example, in the upcoming performances, an actor who is quadriplegic will play a character who is paraplegic. The performances will also serve as an experimental laboratory for UCSD researchers to try out new methods for accessible performance and to raise the familiarity of graduate students and the theatre community to access practices when it comes to theatre performances.

The performances also coincide with the launch of a new transdisciplinary disability studies working group sponsored by the UC San Diego Center for Humanities.

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