Amy Trigg: 5 Tips for Deaf and Disabled Actors
Amy Trigg was the first wheelchair user to graduate from a performance course at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and recently appeared as Sally Simpson in the tour of The Who’s Tommy. She will play Anna in new play Goth Weekend at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. A keen comedian, Trigg won Colchester New Comedian of the Year 2016 and runs Essex-based improv group Lady’s Inconvenience.
1. Go to an improv class
When I graduated from Mountview, I realised that there weren’t many parts written for disabled actors. There still aren’t. The characters that are written are often the victim of their story or ‘inspiration porn’. I have never wanted to be either. Instead I wanted to play interesting, bossy, funny, weird characters but they just didn’t exist… or did they? I signed up to an improv class and unleashed the characters I’d always wanted to play and discovered others I didn’t know existed. In all my time improvising, I have never played a character with a disability – or at least the scene wasn’t about my disability. Improv frees you from the constraints the industry can put on you. It also makes you a happier, kinder human, so it’s a win-win situation. Warning: It’s addictive. I recommend Hoopla, The Nursery and Improvable as they have all met my access needs but I’m sure there are other schools that would do the same.
Many people with disabilities think training isn’t an option but it is. Though many drama schools aren’t accessible, some are and others are trying to make it work. When I started at Mountview, they didn’t have a lift to the library, but they got one. My time at Mountview was invaluable. It gave me a skill set I couldn’t get elsewhere. If you can’t go to drama school then there are other options. Short courses, placements and workshops will help you grow as an actor.
3. Do not compare success
We are addicted to comparing our success with others in this industry. And it can quickly make you feel like a failure. Fun fact: Just because you didn’t get into drama school and your best mate did, that doesn’t make you a failure. Maybe your drama school buddy went straight into a West End show and you’re still going to castings where you’re asked to improvise a Shakespeare speech as a dolphin – this does not make you a failure. It might mean that your friend should pay for your coffee next time you go out, but it doesn’t make you a failure. The industry is small and the d/Deaf and disabled community within that industry is even smaller. You will see the same people at auditions, constantly. Don’t obsess over how many more credits they have. Be happy for others and ease off the pressure. It’s not a race.
4. Look after yourself
Accept that some days are better than others. Pain management, medication and fatigue can make work feel like a mountain climb. Make sure your employers are aware of your needs. If they don’t know, they can’t help you. I know some things are private but from experience it’s best to make your boundaries clear. Don’t be shy about asking for help.
5. Look for inclusive theatre companies
Everyone wants to be on in the West End, but you know who’s doing some of the most exciting work right now? Regional theatres, Graeae and Ramps on the Moon. I might be biased, but it’s for a reason. Look for companies that embrace people with all kinds of disabilities and backgrounds. Diversity is awesome and exciting. Get involved. If you make your own work, don’t give access needs a hierarchy. I’m currently working on creating improv shows that are accessible for everyone. This includes use of audio description, BSL, captioning and more. Fight the fight together. On a side note, look up the social model of disability. You’re welcome.