4 February 2013
Toronto, Canada -- In what many consider a bold move, noted Canadian playwright Judith Thompson has produced a play starring and written by persons with Down's syndrome. Entitled RARE, the play consists of the life experiences of non-professional Down's syndrome actors. "As a playwright, I am trying to get away from writing fiction, or retelling reality using my own words," said Thompson, "Instead, I prefer to show life as it is, not as it is filtered by the author. This play is not unlike my previous plays, Body and Soul which consisted of women over 45 expressing the concerns of late middle age or SICK which consists of the life stories of terminally ill teenagers."
The play focuses on the issues and fears facing those with Down's syndrome. Timothy "Timmy" MacDonald spoke movingly about his fear of the death of their parents, and a possible life without a guardian. Edward "Special Ed" Mackenzie expressed his pride in holding down a job at McDonalds for the last 5 years. Pierre Foulques cursed God for his miserable condition, and wished he had never been born. Frederique Cretin gave a stirring 15 minute dialog about her love of chocolate milk.
"By using real people instead of characters, I add an element of realism to my work. I am presenting things as they are, not as I think they are or should be. Paradoxically, this style of theater production often requires less work and planning than traditional methods. Writing fiction requires effort and creativity, while plays presenting real life almost write themselves."
Despite generally positive reviews, Thompson has been criticized by some for exploiting the disabled. "I wouldn't say that I'm exploiting the mentally challenged," said Thompson, "Granted, most critiques are not going to negatively review a play that exclusively stars the mentally disabled. However, I'm not running a freak show, as some people allege. That would require actors with much more rare and interesting disabilities. If were to do a real gloried freak show, then I'd have nothing to top it with next season. That is why is important to shock the sensibilities of your audience gradually, so you can shock them again next season."
- Susan G. Cole "Judith Thompson and group of Down syndrome writer/performers create great theatre". NOW Toronto, February 3, 2013
- CBC News "Down syndrome cast members provide the spark in RARE". CBC News, January 30, 2013