When you have a disability, some things are more challenging. In this same mindset, when performers are told to limit their movements or to restrict themselves in some way, they could become frustrated. But to Dr. Telory Arendell, associate professor in the department of theatre and dance at Missouri State, she considers it freeing to not be confined by the norms and expectations.
She looks at the intersection of dance, theatre and disability. Her first book, “Performing Disability: Staging the Actual” discussed this intersection and led to her second major book, “The Autistic Stage: How Cognitive Disability Changed 20th Century Performance.”
While writing the book, she encountered a colleague who was a stepmother to a child on the spectrum. The child would come home from school and privately reenact conversations and scenarios that had happened throughout her school day. It wasn’t a rehearsal for things to come but a way to unpack the day, Arendell explains.
The book is a conversation starter, she found, when she got a call from a mental health professional who wanted some advice on helping a client who was on the spectrum. The client was ready to graduate college and struggling internally with some major life decisions.