kin • song

December 2-12, 2021
Texas Theatre and Dance
directed by Alexis Riley, devised by the ensemble

About the Performance:

kin • song: ode to disability ancestors is a digital performance ritual, a cybernetic seance. Through monologue, dialogue, puppetry, song and dance, we will join creative forces to call upon the ghosts of our disability ancestors, waking them from their unmarked graves to join us in an act of mourning, celebration and care. Here, in the sacred timespace of performance, we will name them, claim them and honor their brilliance, all before (finally) laying them to rest.

This devised production invites us to grapple with the long history of ableism in Austin, in Texas and in the United States. It demands that we answer that history, accepting a kind of responsibility to those who came before. Finally, it asks us to care for their memory and in that caring, dream a more just future.

About the Process:

To devise this production, our team spent time researching the history of disability and mental health care, broadly, and institutionalization, specifically. In addition to drawing on historical archives, performers also engaged their embodied archives, translating individual, familial, and cultural grief practices into mourning scores: gesture phrases enacted as a form of memorialization, marking both loss and celebration of life. We then took these mourning scores on the move, beginning at the Austin State Hospital Cemetery, processing by The University of Texas at Austin’s Intramural Fields, through The Triangle development, past the state hospital, and into Central Park, tracing, with performers’ bodies, the original geography of the Austin State Hospital campus. After re-membering the displaced cemetery and the current state hospital, performers reenacted these mourning scores in their individual spaces, each adorned with a memorial garland containing the names of current and former state hospitals located across the United States, effectively projecting the performance across time and space.

Throughout the process of creating kin • song, this project has transformed from a performance that engages disability to a practice that embraces disability. Crafted by disabled and non-disabled artists and mounted during the COVID-19 pandemic, kin • song not only provides an opportunity to reflect on the histories of isolation that permeate disability history; it also draws attention to the way performance has contributed to that isolation through inaccessible rehearsal and production practices. As we worked to identify and dismantle access barriers within our own process, we ultimately came to understand performance itself as a form of kinmaking–with our ancestors, with our ensemble, and now, we hope, with our audience.

Ways to Engage:

  • To attend the show, visit the Texas Theatre and Dance website for tickets and show information.
  • Check out our companion website for additional accessibility features, curated artwork, and production artifacts.
  • Access the program for more information about our cast and crew.
  • Join us for Crip Conversations, Texas Center for Disability Studies’ monthly speaker series. At this event, members of our core creative team will discuss our work in building accessible rehearsal and production practices, and share practice-based exercises for incorporating accessibility into disability justice and performance work.
  • Join us for our talkback at 2:00 PM on December 4, featuring disability activists and scholars in conversation with our ensemble.

kin • song: ode to disability ancestors is produced through generous support from The University of Texas at Austin College of Fine Arts Diversity Committee.

photos by Shannon Woods