Themed Issue: Consent is an Access Issue: Rethinking Disability, Accessibility, and Consent-Based Theatre Practices

Call for Papers Deadline: March 31, 2024

Submission Guidelines


“Disabled people’s liberation cannot be boiled down to logistics.”

–Mia Mingus

            Logistics, policies, “diversifying” seasons through quotas, and pre-prescribed accommodations will never establish a liberatory theatre or educational process; liberatory space can only be created through unbegrudging access and openness to fully, intersectionally welcoming all people. Mia Mingus (2017) highlights the experience of many disabled folx, who are told “we must shrink ourselves and our desires to settle for living in the wake of an able-bodied parade.” Alison Kafer (2013) argues that our society not only pressures disabled people to shrink, but seeks their eradication, stating that disabled people are treated with a “presumption of agreement” with the abled perspective in which “disabled people are continually being written out of the future, rendered as a sign of the future no one wants.” Both Mingus and Kafer highlight ways in which our social and legal structures strip disabled people of the right to consent. 

These dynamics are further complicated by intersectional identification with multiple disenfranchised populations, which compounds the experience of violation, exclusion, and misrepresentation. Rarely do organizations dedicated to liberation from one form of oppression proactively consider questions of access and inclusion for those experiencing other forms of discrimination. Drawing on her experience as a “queer physically disabled Korean transracial and transnational adoptee raised in the Caribbean” (Mingus 2009), Mingus writes evocatively of the pain of experiencing one (or more) forms of discrimination in spaces dedicated to fighting against another, noting “the ways that ableism and white supremacy work together so successfully to isolate disabled people of color continues to break my heart.” Our identities are simultaneous; we can never separate our disability from other aspects of our being. When only one element of identity is respected and included, the whole self is rejected. 

            In theatrical spaces, disabled people are often forcibly absent; the vast majority–more than ninety-five percent--of disabled roles are performed by abled performers (Kataja 2020), and only extremely rarely are disabled artists hired for non-explicitly disabled roles or any other position in the theatre. Furthermore, the vast majority of theatrical spaces and processes were designed with only ableds in mind. In theatrical settings and in theatre education, then, when disabled people are actually present, the disabled bodymind is treated as a crisis to be solved or a material to be molded to fit abled expectations–of character interpretation, of physical practice and style, and of ways of inhabiting space and time. However, when the problem is viewed as located in the being of the disabled individual, the only solutions seen are the removal of disability, through ability-masking, when possible, and the complete rejection and removal of the student/artist who cannot or will not conform to ableist expectation. 

When the lived experience of disabled people is so thoroughly permeated by exclusion, shrinking (Mingus 2017), or being molded in order to survive in abled spaces, the choices and actions of disabled students and artists is inherently shaped by coercive forces, rendering full and free consent to educators, directors, and managers absent barring specific, extraordinary effort on the part of the abled individuals in power, an issue further complicated by intersectional experience of oppression across multiple identifications. As such, the future of a disability-inclusive theatre depends on ensuring all bodyminds experience a space built around not only access, but the physical and emotional safety necessary to create consensual intimacy, and with it the kind of daring, risky performance choices leading to the best of the theatrical arts.


            For this special issue of the Journal of Consent-Based Performance, co-edited by JCBP corresponding editor Amanda Rose Villarreal and guest editor Catherine (Katya) Vrtis, we are calling for theoretical and practical interventions to this eliminationist view of disability in theatre pedagogy, practice, and scholarship. These approaches can include but are not limited to considerations of the following questions:

  1. How does access intimacy inform current consent-based practices?
  2. How can a consent-forward approach serve to create access intimacy in the theatrical space?
  3. How can abled workers in the theatre, especially those in positions of power, create space for free and full consent/non-consent when working with disabled students and artists?
  4. In what ways can anti-ableist approaches such as universal design and disability-inclusive production techniques be woven into theatrical design and performance processes and spaces?
  5. How can disability inclusion be built into production from the view of direction, design, management, and other non-performance roles?
  6. How can radically and intersectionally inclusive pedagogical theories and approaches inform performances of intimacy and intimacy choreography and coordination practices?
  7. Additionally, what unique considerations are necessary when working with disabled performers on intimacy and intimacy choreography and coordination?
  8. How are disabled characters mis/represented in dramatic literature?
  9. Where are eliminationist and other anti-disabled ideologies promoted and normalized in theatre history and dramatic literature?
  10. How can anti-ableism and access intimacy be enacted through theatre pedagogy, praxis, and scholarship?



The JCBP will be accepting scholarly articles and notes from the field for this issue until March 31, 2024.


Manuscripts can be submitted at


For an overview of JCBP’s distinction between Notes From the Field and Articles, please review our submission guidelines at





Kafer, Alison. 2013. Feminist, Queer, Crip. 1st edition. Bloomington (Ind.): Indiana University Press.

Kataja, Rosanna. 2020. “Inclusion, Don’t Forget About Us: Disabilities in Performing Arts.” Harvard Political Review (blog). October 24, 2020.

Mingus, Mia. 2009. “About.” Leaving Evidence (blog). October 29, 2009.

———. 2017. “Access Intimacy, Interdependence and Disability Justice.” Leaving Evidence (blog). April 12, 2017.