Thank you to the OAC & CCftA

Comedy

Alan's performance disciplines include theatre, storytelling, dance and stand-up comedy – all specific to the representation of the lived experience of disability. His work explores disability in terms of relationships - relationships within peer groups at school, work and in the community, relationships within intimacy and family, as well as relationships with personal hopes, dreams and desires. Mainstream culture often treats disability as separate from all other life experiences such as falling in love, merging one's life with another, and raising a family. But disabled people have something unique to say about these types of experiences – and it’s the very experience of living with a disability that makes those stories important to tell.

Popular culture typically portrays disability as a tragic affliction within, or set upon, the individual. Specific to theatre, storytelling and performance, disabled characters are most often defined by this presumed weakness or flaw and their struggle to overcome this negative characteristic or “affliction”. Alan's performances stand in direct opposition to this popular framing of disability. He instead tells fuller truths about disability by examining the socio-political context of personal and cultural identity.

Alan’s intention is to advance a vision of social equality that embraces disability. His artistic work is founded on a deep commitment to disability activism and taking personal responsibility for creating change. Knowing all too well the transformative power of performance, his heart is profoundly committed to broadening our cultural notions of beauty, power, and community – thereby broadening our ideas around disability - through the performing arts.

HISTORY

Alan has always been interested in writing and performing. He acted in school productions while growing up in Montreal, was involved with the Montreal Storytellers Club, and frequently read his short stories at local coffee shops. In 1989, he won third prize in an amateur stand-up comedy competition. After years of successfully touring the Yuk Yuk's Komedy Kabaret circuit, Alan turned to performance through the development of his first production, Still Waiting for That Special Bus. This hilarious show proved a smash hit and got Alan invited all over the world to perform. As a result of this triumph, Alan founded Smashing Stereotypes Productions in 1999 to provide him with a platform for future work. Through performance, Alan treats disability as a political and cultural identity, offering particular vantage points from which to foster new ideas around disability. Alan has shared those ideas, through performance, to more than 1,000 audiences to date.

ADVOCACY

Alan has contributed extensively to research and advocacy around both disability rights and disability performance. His Master's Thesis, published by Carleton University in January 2006, highlights arts and culture as a site of political struggle and explores the connections that are being made between the disability arts and culture movement and the struggle for the equality and human rights of disabled peoples. Alan holds an Honours BA in Political Science and Sociology, as well as a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

He has published articles in prominent national publications such as Blizzart, Canadian Theatre Review, Abilities Magazine, Canadian Social Trends, and the Disability News Service. He has also been the subject of numerous research documents on disabled artists such as Art Smarts published by the Society for Disability Arts and Culture (S4DAC), and has sat on several panel discussions such as for the School of Disability Studies (Ryerson University), for Abilities Festival (Toronto) , for Balancing Acts Festival (Calgary), for Sixth Sense Performance Festival (Taiwan), and for PACT (Professional Association of Canadian Theatres). Alan was the primary researcher for a pilot project entitled Art Works conducted by the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University. This study documented the careers of disabled artists and the strategies they employ to address issues around disability. Alan was also contracted as a consultant by the Australian Arts Council for documentation to assist arts organizations on the inclusion of disabled people. Alan has additionally taken on several leadership roles within the area of disability and performance. He was invited by the Canada Council for the Arts to present to directors and upper level managers on disability arts. As well, he was a delegate to an inaugural two day consultation group on the development of policy around supporting the disability arts movement in Canada.

He also co-founded Propeller Dance to provide ongoing training, education and performance opportunities for both disabled and non-disabled adults, youth and children.

HONORS

Alan holds the honour of being the only Canadian artist invited to the 2000 Paralympics Arts Festival in Sydney, Australia. In 2001, he was invited to perform for the Department of Community Affairs in Bermuda. In 2003, he was invited to perform at the Above and Beyond Festival in England. In 2004, he performed at the VSA International Disability Arts Festival in Washington, DC. In 2005, his performance opened Abilities Festival in Toronto. In 2008, Alan was the only Canadian artist invited to the Sixth Sense Performing Arts Festival in Taiwan. He’s also been a featured artist at Balancing Acts: Calgary’s Annual Disability Arts Festival for six of the past eight years, performing theatre, stand-up comedy, and storytelling.

Alan’s work has been supported through a number of awards and grants: a 2000 International Touring Grant from the Department of Foreign Affairs; a 2005 Artistic Award of Excellence from the City of Ottawa; a 2006 Creation and Production Fund Grant for Professional Artists from the City of Ottawa; a 2007 Operating Grant from Trillium Foundation (for Propeller Dance, with which Alan is an Artistic Associate); a 2008 Independent Creation Grant, as well as a Travel Grant, from Canada Council for the Arts; and a 2008 Theatre Project Grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

His work has been featured in both disability-related and in mainstream publications - Pathways (the Cerebral Palsy Association of Alberta’s quarterly newsletter), Exceptional Parent (a national Canadian magazine for parents of disabled children), The Ottawa Sun, The Ottawa Citizen, and RealTime Magazine (Sydney, Australia) - to name a few. His shows have received rave reviews in prominent Canadian daily press publications such as The Toronto Star, The Eye Weekly and The Winnipeg Free Press. Alan’s comedy has also frequently been featured on CBC radio and on CBC’s national television program, Moving On. Abilities Magazine, Canada’s leading national publication on disability issues featured Alan on the cover of their Fall 2005 issue.

 

 

 

a fascinating

performance

that

challenges

perceptions

of how

disabled

people live

 

alex laws