Actual Lives Austin is a community-based, page-to-stage writing and performance project which establishes a voice for people with disabilities. Led by Chris Strickling, Ph.D., Actual Lives Austin begins with autobiographical writing and ends with public performance, taking the raw material of real life and serving as cultural dialogue. The award winning group, voted “Best Theatrical Activism” by The Austin Chronicle, is recognized as innovative theater across the nation.
Actual Lives Austin is designed for adults, at least 18 years of age, who live with a disability, and is limited to 15 participants. We encourage participation from adults with profound disability, as well as those whose disability may not significantly impede their daily function. In addition, local theater personnel are encouraged to participate, or to provide a venue for the staged reading.
A three-day workshop begins with a focus on generating autobiographical writing through memory and interactive exercises. We then move quickly to the development of autobiographical narratives, either individually or integrated into small group pieces by focusing on common themes among participants (or even on disagreements). The next day's session explores the many ways that images from writing can be translated into meaningful moments in performance, and informal performances for each other. During the sessions, participants have a chance to work individually and in small groups with the instructors and project volunteers. Participants first develop their themes in writing, then work out technical problems, logistics, pacing, etc. The third day is scheduled as a rehearsal and work-day, with the public performance in the evening. The final performance is a staged reading, with some theatrical elements incorporated into selected pieces. Video documentation of the final performance and interviews with the participants during the workshop are provided when possible.