Kate Hood in Emilie Collyer's 'Contest'. Photo Sarah Walker

Wire #17: Increasing Access for Professional Artists With A Disability - Part 2

Thu 7 April 2022

In Australia and in many other countries, professional performing artists with disabilities experience significant barriers to access and employment opportunities. In APAM’s Wire #15 in December 2021, we started a dialogue about what organisations including theatre companies and performing arts venues can do to create more sustainable artistic development and employment pathways, rather than one-off opportunities which simply ‘tick a box’. Realising in December that we were merely scratching the surface, APAM now presents Part 2 of this conversation in collaboration with Dan Graham, a Sydney-based theatre director and disability advocate. We will hear from performing artists and arts workers from Australia and the United States on what is currently being done and what needs to change.

Curated and hosted by Dan Graham, our panel of speakers is Gayle Kennedy (writer, playwright and disability advocate, Australia), Anita Hollander (New York-based actress, composer, director and teacher), Kate Hood (Raspberry Ripple Productions, Australia), Dr Katie Ellis (Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University) and Oliver Ross (writer and producer across film and theatre and an advocate for trans and neurodiverse storytelling).

This conversation will be live-captioned and it will have Auslan interpretation. Please contact us at hello@apam.org.au if you have accessibility requirements.


Dan Graham – Curator & Host
Dan is a theatre director and disability advocate with a particular interest in access support for neuro-diverse performing artists. Dan has a neuro-diverse disability and accompanying neurological challenges that impact his daily life including his creative ability. His directing and access work have seen him travel all over Australia and the world to research and explore access and inclusion. Dan has engaged with companies across Australia such as Bell Shakespeare, Sydney Festival, Sydney Fringe, Antipode Theatre Company, and the Ensemble Theatre. His recent collaborations in the US include the Atlantic Theatre Company and Pasadena Playhouse and in the UK the Globe Theatre. Dan is a fellow of the Australia Council’s Future Leaders Program, an Ian Potter Foundation scholarship, and Create NSW fellowship recipient. He has a stellar director resume and uses his success to advocate for other artists who identify as neurodiverse. Dan studied BA (Communication) and MCA (Theatre, specialising in directing) at the University of Tasmania and Honours in Performance Studies at the University of Sydney. His Honours paper focused on the playwright’s intent and how this is realised in the director’s vision. Dan is a board director of Arts Access Australia and a regular peer assessor for the Australia Council for the Arts. He is the co-chair of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s (MEAA) artists with Disability Board and on the LGBTQIA+ disability advisory group for ACON. He is a board member of the Hickson Road Group Accessible Arts, and a member of Accessible Arts NSW Artists Advisory Group. He previously was a board member for Arts Access Australia and a committee member for the Hobart Fringe Festival.

Gayle Kennedy
Gayle is a member of the Wongaiibon clan of South West NSW. In 2005 her book of poetry Koori Girl Goes Shoppin was shortlisted for the David Unaipon Award. Gayle went on to win the award in 2006 with her book Me, Antman & Fleabag. The book was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and Deadly Award, and was commended in the Kate Challis RAKA Award.  She has had articles and short stories published in diverse publications including The Australian Women’s Weekly, Readers Digest, Australian Author, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Edinburgh Review, as well as books Growing Up Disabled in Australia and Flock.  Her graphic novel This Is Country (OUP), was selected to represent Australia at the 2014 Bologna Book Fair, Italy. Gayle has presented at the Sydney Writers Festival, Brisbane Writers Festival, Wordstorm, Festival of the Dreaming, Happiness & Its Causes, Australian Seniors, several Access Arts conferences and presented the 2020 Keynote address at Artscape Wagga Wagga and many more. Gayle is part of the Generation Women alumni and regularly is called upon to speak on behalf of the 60s team. She is also a twice winner of Voices of Women: Monologue Adventures. Her radio play The Debut was commissioned by Urban Theatre Projects, and was produced and played on Gadigal radio in 2014.  Gayle has spoken about the Aboriginal perspective of disability across Australia as well as Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Japan. She has completed two terms as a peer assessor for the Australia Council, and served a term as an assessor for Create NSW and assesses for Arts Access NSW. She also sits on the Board of Directors for Boomalli Artists Co-Operative. Gayle has been called upon for a second term as a presenter on advocacy for The Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS), an advocacy organisation that works with disabled young people.

Anita Hollander
Anita has worked throughout Europe, Asia, Russia and America as an actress, singer, composer, lyricist, director, producer, and teacher.  She has premiered new works of composers and playwrights at Carnegie Hall, Playwrights Horizons, and New York Shakespeare Festival, where she sang original work of Philip Glass. She received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical for the Olney Theatre premiere of The Fifth Season and originated the title role in the award-winning play Gretty Good Time at the Kennedy Center in Washington. As a two-time cancer survivor, Anita has negotiated over half her 50-year performing career on one leg, using her disability not only to enhance her roles, but to enlighten the world about disability and promote greater visibility and employment for performers with disabilities. Having served on the National Board of SAG-AFTRA, Anita is National Chair of SAG-AFTRA Performers with Disabilities Committee and a member of the Actors Equity/Broadway League Diversity Coalition. A founding member of Inclusion in the Arts’ project DEAL (Disability in Entertainment & Arts Link), she adjudicates for the ReelAbilities Film Festival and VSA Arts Playwright Discovery Program. Anita served as a National Co-chair of the I AM PWD Campaign (Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Disabilities) and maintains a Watchdog Report of disability activity in film, TV and theatre.

Dr Katie Ellis
Katie is Professor in Internet Studies and Director of the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University where she researches disability and digital media. She has worked with people with disabilities in the community, government, and in academia and published widely in the area of disability, television, and digital and networked media, extending across both issues of representation and active possibilities for social inclusion.

Kate Hood
Kate had a career as an able-bodied actor for many years, performing in everything from classics to musicals. Some credits: Prisoner (Grundy’s), Big River (Gordon Frost), Diving for Pearls (Melbourne Theatre Company), Marat Sade (State Theatre Company of South Australia). She became a wheelchair user over a decade ago and reinvented herself as a disabled advocate, writer and theatre maker, after participating in the Sync Leadership Intensive with Jo Verrent (Unlimited, UK), a training course for disabled leadership in the performing arts. She then worked with Jenny Sealey (D/deaf Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre UK) on her Aesthetics of Access Residency. Her theatre company Raspberry Ripple Productions dissolves the divide by making original, accessible theatre using mainstream and disabled artists. Kate’s current credits include Takeover! (Arts Centre Melbourne 2020, actor, writer); That’s Why the Lady Needs a Ramp (actor, writer), Footscray Community Arts Centre / Raspberry Ripple; Contest (actor), Darebin Speakeasy; Elephant Man (Besen Directing Placement), Malthouse Theatre; Neighbours (actor); Malthouse Theatre (Director/Devisor), Enunciations, Raspberry Ripple Productions (writer, director, actor). She is founder and Co-Chair of the Performers with Disabilities Committee at Actors Equity.

Oliver Ross
Passionate about trans and neurodiverse storytelling, Oliver has worked on over 100 creative projects across film, theatre and advocacy. Focusing on character, world-building and audience reception, he was selected as one of 11 creatives for Screen Australia’s Developing the Developer in 2019, and trained in story development in musical theatre (The Breath in Between with Eleven O Clock Theatre) and film (Untapped with Australians in Film, and Originate with SBS, Film Victoria and Arenamedia) following working as a rough cut consultant on Robert Connollys feature The Dry. Freelancing as a set, costume & lighting designer, writer, festival screener and producer, he’s worked across seasons at La Mama,  Melbourne International Comedy, Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe, Midsumma, Queer Screen & Mardi Gras Film Festival, and has written articles for Screen Australia and Global Creatures. With committee work across MEAA & the Equity Diversity Committee, he recently worked for two years with Transgender Victoria and the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s peer support program, supporting over 80 trans and gender diverse community projects. He is currently preparing to go on placement with ABC’s scripted department in Sydney, assessing and developing pitches.