07 Jul No Assumptions, Please!
More mixed-ability performances in Malta,
Hello everyone, welcome back to ‘No Assumptions Please!’ Today I’m going to be talking about my experiences in Malta of mixed-ability performing arts with Opening Doors.
I joined Opening Doors back in 2019 when I was only 18 and I’m very proud to see where we are today. Back then we were not where we are today. We were only doing performances and events which were with the OD members, not yet integrated, but it had been an aim for Opening Doors to become inclusive and to become more mixed-ability.
I have seen a growing change from 2019 to now. Especially in 2021 after the Covid19 pandemic we really came back with full force. In October 2021 we had our very first mixed-ability performance Is Sigra Tat Tin directed by Toni Attard and written by Simone Spiteri. When the script was first written there were a lot of blank spaces so together we came up with what we wanted to touch upon and what we liked to see in the performance, based on our own experiences. Extra scenes were also added with these materials. I think Is-Sigra was the very first real mixed-ability performance in Malta, and it was a first for all of us who took part. The way we worked was very open and very honest and this also reflected on how Toni worked with us. He said that it was no different from working with any performer in mainstream performances even though he needed to adapt a few small things for some of the performers according to our needs and give us that extra push to perform better and to give us all recognition of being serious performers. What really helped was the addition of our three guest actors (without disabilities) who have integrated themselves fully into the cast. Each of them really helped us to make our performance better and helped us to become stronger individuals. There was no difference amongst us and the guest actors. We were all performers working on the same production together and we were all supporting each other equally.
In November 2021 we had our second mixed-ability performance, called Automaniacs. It was for the Ziguzajg Youth Festival for Young people and children. The cast was combined of some of the members from the dance and music groups and two of us from Theatre 2. Two of the cast members also working at Opening Doors and two others from outside Opening Doors, all of us with different skills ranging from actors, dancers, circus performers and musicians. The whole experience of Automaniacs was very special, especially in the way we worked under the amazing guidance of Douglas Comely. It was never about choreographing the performance, it was about letting the performance come from within us and what we wanted to see happen and what we wanted to put in. It was a beautiful piece because all of us got to share what we had in mind with each other, we were very open to new ideas as well as being very open and honest with each other and we were constantly playing off from each other when we were working in the space. We had excellent communication among all of us including the director and the producer. We had our own group chat on Messenger where more ideas for the performance came in, which allowed us to have big discussions on the ideas, we also used it for organising transport among the cast. There was an amazing sense of team and family while we were working on Automaniacs, and this could really be felt while we were in rehearsals and even when we were not working. This really helped to make us and the performance even stronger and everyone learnt from each other. The great news is that we made it through to the second season in November 2022 and that Ziguzajg wants to work with us again!
At the beginning of June 2022, we had a rerun of Is Sigra Tat Tin; seeing the success that we had in October we wanted to do it again. As we were performing it again we had the opportunity to make it become even stronger and better than in October. Toni was challenging us more as performers and I could feel that by each rehearsal the bar was being raised which also really helped in getting out our very best. The whole experience really helped us grow as performers and creatives and each one of us was very open in this growth. As we were back together it also helped in making our relationships as the cast grow even stronger. The guest actors really became a part of us more than ever and together we had another very successful run of Is Sigra Tat Tin.
Near the end of May 2022 Opening Doors had the variety show that we hold every end of year. It was a combination of works by Opening Doors’ 6 groups of music, theatre and dance over the year. This was my first big Opening Doors performance with all of the groups as unfortunately after I joined the Covid19 pandemic hit. The end of year show was something that I always wanted to take part in and it was a truly amazing experience. I got the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. I also got to be in two pieces, not only did I take part in the Theatre 2 performance but we also got to showcase the cone scene from Automaniacs! Working on the variety show especially backstage was fun because it showed no barriers and no differences between the members and the creative team.
During the year Opening Doors also arranged for several inclusive workshops with different partners. I enjoying attending the Studio18 workshop and the University of Malta dance workshop.
I would like to finish of this blog post by saying that mixed-ability performances are a new thing in Malta and there should be more of them. So let’s work together to help them flourish.
Photography: Camille Fenech