One of the only programmes of this type in the country, the StoneCrabs Young Directors’ Training Programme aims to help train and develop the potential of a group of theatre makers in the beginnings of their career.
I’m not sure where I’d be without StoneCrabs, though I’d have probably given up by now. All previous attempts to access some sort of training have gone badly, and I have been asked to leave as I simply cannot do what is asked of me. This is fair, when it comes down to innate ability at least, as it has often been said that artists need to be born with talent which is then trained towards perfection. I’m big-headed enough to believe I’ve got the talent, so where has it all gone wrong?
I think the more important thing to consider is where StoneCrabs have got it right. They’re based in the Albany for a start, one of London’s few completely accessible theatres, and even our outside sessions are held somewhere with a working lift – not something I can say about my previous drama school.
My true freedom comes in the sessions themselves, where I’m not told to ‘try my hardest’ – to exhaust myself so much I’m unable to get out of bed the next day – or to simply ‘sit and watch’; although it was undoubtedly first being told to do this which turned my head towards directing. Instead, every single workshop leader we’ve had, from directors to designers, has taken the time to tell me to do what I can and to not feel ashamed about it. Feeling upset and angry in the corner whilst watching my peers accidentally exclude me is something which would never be thought of here, let alone carried out. I’m truly part of the group, and not an outsider who demands alternative assessment. It’s genuinely quite intoxicating to be included.
There’s a lot of overlap between the struggles I’ve faced and those faced by disabled actors. I was saddened but unsurprised to discover, during our session with a casting agent, that it’s quite normal for disabled actors to be under disabled-specific agents. While this increases the likelihood of disabled actors playing disabled characters (something which is still disturbingly uncommon across all media), it makes the chances of one of those actors ever playing a character who isn’t written as disabled basically impossible.
So as a director I have to first consider that my character could be disabled, and if so, could the audience view that as anything other than an intentional choice to reflect something about the character? With my StoneCrabs play I don’t believe this is the case, and so I’ve stressed that disabled actors are welcome to apply, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be casting someone for the sake of it. As a disabled director I wonder if I have a duty to employ other disabled people though, and I’m sure it’s a question I’ll ask myself throughout my career; just as other minority directors undoubtedly do. I don’t want to be restricted by something I simply am, but I have also never met another disabled director.
StoneCrabs have given me the opportunity to be seen as an artist unrestricted by disability, but it’s still to be seen if my disability will shape my art.
StoneCrabs Young Directors Festival is on 14-18 March at The Albany Deptford. This blog post was written by young director, Hanley Quintrell.