Academic journal article Liminalities

Co-Creating Cripping: A Performance Ethnographic Research Project as Undergraduate Pedagogy

Academic journal article Liminalities

Co-Creating Cripping: A Performance Ethnographic Research Project as Undergraduate Pedagogy

Article excerpt

Cripping is the culmination of a nine-year project. It began as an interdisciplinary dissertation in Communication Studies and Performance Studies that focused on personal narratives as performance of identity, disability culture, and professionalism. A production was nowhere in the proposal. However, 26 openended interviews, a 302-page dissertation, eight short performances, and seven research articles later, the project still felt "undone." People kept asking - audience members at the dissertation defense, conference presentations and guest lectures, anonymous article reviewers, even potential students and colleagues at prospective job interviews-"Is this going to be a show?" In 2010, when Julie- Ann accepted a position at the University of North Carolina Wilmington that had a performance studies colleague with extensive directing experience (Frank), and an accomplished video production professor (Bill), she started to answer, "Yes." Through collaboration it was possible to create a video that traced the complex co-creation of physically disabled identity in daily performance as personally embodied and culturally political through an advanced undergraduate course at a level that warranted publication and distribution.

This essay maps the journey from narrative performance research to performance ethnography and pedagogy, highlighting struggles over script creation, student casting, directing, pedagogical goals, and artistic decisions situated in cultural struggles over marginalized bodies. We will draw upon elements of performance pedagogy, performance ethnography, autoethnography and disability politics throughout this reflection as we grapple with a co-creation involving multiple stakeholders of this project: the research participants, the actors, the directors, the institutions that made the work possible and potential audiences which we hope include you. The following narrative moves back and forth between the voices of three professors/directors of this project: Julie-Ann and Bill discuss script composition, Julie-Ann comments on casting decisions, Julie-Ann and Frank reflect on directing, and Bill and Julie-Ann offer perspectives on oversight of student editing. The final thoughts are a collective effort. Through this joint reflection, we look at how Cripping came to be, what we're excited about, what we may have done differently in hindsight, and what we may do next as we explore future projects.

We write this essay in order to enhance viewings of the video, inviting audience members to enter into dialogue over the co-creation of performance art through undergraduate course design that draws audiences in beyond the page and the embodied, face-to-face encounters with all the messiness that entails. Through getting to know us and following the year-long development of this 55-minute film through our reflections, we look forward to the potential conversations that may ensue. In addition to responding to Cripping as a production, we hope that through reading this essay, ". . . audience members [will be] anxious to tell [us] about their own experiences. . ." that our reflections with the video will ". . . generate meaning, ideas, memory in their own lives that they [will] want to share" and that can perhaps inform both ours and others' future endeavors into performance ethnography, pedagogy, and multimedia disability representations (Spry, 249).

Writing the Script: Figuring Out What Evokes Response and What is Complete

Julie-Ann: The Chapters of Emergent Research

Upon my first open-ended coding, I presented three empirical chapter topics to my dissertation advisor Kristin Langellier: The Performance of Professionalism, the Performance of Disabled Embodiment, and the Performance of Gender/ Private Identity. A year later, we decided to add a fourth data chapter that would note the remaining gaps, the voices that seemed to talk to one another even though they had never met. To create this final chapter, I interweaved participants' words into what I termed, "performance conversations" in relation to the three topics that made up the dissertation focusing heavily on lines from the interviews that stayed with me, even if the previous chapters did not emphasize their significance. …

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