PhD Oral Exam - Ashley McAskill, Communication
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Although there is literature on disability and theatre across central and western Canada, very little scholarly work has been done on Québec. This dissertation explores how theatre companies and programs working with disabled artists in Vancouver and Montréal are changing perspectives of disability and theatre making. Whereas other scholarly work within Canadian contexts has focused on the histories and professional survival of said companies and programs, I will theorize on how they are changing new aesthetic standards and practices for the performing arts. My research uses an intensive fieldwork with three case studies- Theatre Terrific (Vancouver, British Columbia), the performance training program Les Muses (Montréal, Québec), and Les Production des pieds des mains (Montréal, Québec). Through my participant observation and ethnographic research of their classes, workshops, and rehearsals, followed with interviews with participating artists and artistic directors, I theorize of how disability is approached and creatively used as a generative tool by my participants. My research explores the personal and ethical complexity of this kind of community fieldwork, and the centrality of the personal relationships I built with my participants. I theorize on the aesthetic politics and practices that emerge from my participants within Anglophone and Francophone cultural contexts. For my Montréal participants, I situate their work within what I call an atypique approach whereby disabled artists and non-normative bodies are artistically privileged and meaningfully socially integrated. I also explore how slowness is used as a way to pedagogically move away from valuing one temporal pace of learning and artistically creating. I then bring slowness and the atypique approach into dialogue with my concept of tenderness- a term I use to articulate in how performance and human encounters deformalize static ways of understanding the world. My participants breaks through the molds of ableism whereby their creative work is still often perceived through medical lenses of being art therapy or overcoming their challenges. Using critical disability studies and community performance studies to frame my arguments, my research extends how disability is a complex lens of how to move in the world that opposes normative standards of time and space. This dissertation lends new language, aesthetic theorization, and pedagogical understanding to disability theatre in Canada.