News and Events

Masterclass: Performative Practices: Theatre, Disability and the Arts

7 Nov 2018

A collaboration between the Department of Theatre, School of Music and Theatre, and the Mental Health and Disability Research Cluster, Applied Social Studies/ISS21,

12:00 noon to 4:30 pm,
Tuesday 27th November 2018
Venue: CACSSS Seminar Room, O’Rahilly Building, UCC

In 2007 Arts and Disability Ireland published a report entitled ‘Face On: Disability Arts in Ireland and Beyond’. In the report, Michael Morgan described Disabled Arts as ‘creativity rooted in Disability, with the emphasis on art as creativity in action.’ With a focus on theatre arts, this masterclass brings together artists, teachers, therapists, advocates and students to explore this definition through workshop/performance and discussion. The aim is to provide a platform for discussion on creative practice, disability and theatre.

Some of the central questions/topics include:

  • As distinct from other arts practices, what are the specific attributes of theatre practice that open an engagement with the voice of the disabled artist?
  • To what extent can creative practice emancipate the disabled artist and at the same time counter and subvert powerful cultural narratives that have regulated the lives of the disabled?
  • To what extent can theatre practice facilitate a more inclusive conversation between disability artists and their audiences?
  • How can we build a new, more inclusive, aesthetic?
  • What are the barriers to participation? What progress can be made?



12:00 – 12:30 pm


Dr. Noel O’Connell

(playwright and post-doctoral fellow, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick).

Passing As Normal: An Ethnodrama On Deaf People’s ‘Presentation Of Self’

Most deaf studies researchers know that “oralism” is a deeply entrenched ideology in deaf education that outlawed the use of sign language in the classroom. Under this ideology, deaf students were “trained” in articulation drills in order to “pass” as normal. The term “passing” refers to the practice of presenting oneself as belonging to another category (e.g. race or gender). Combining qualitative research with theatre, this ethnodrama presents ways in which deaf people attempt pass to themselves off as “normal”. The performative text shows the extent to which deaf people attempt to negotiate multiple selves according to their ‘performance of the self’ which takes place “front stage” (e.g. presenting a “hearing persona”) and “back stage” (e.g. presenting their sense of self identity). This presentation finds that ethnodrama is an innovative and effective means of presenting the deaf person’s point of view and allows the audience to become immersed in their experiences.

12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

Play Reading

Passing As Normal: An Ethnodrama by Noel O’Connell

read by students of the Department of Theatre (UCC) with ISL

Introduction by Dr. Marie Kelly and Fionn Woodhouse on dramaturgy and script development.

2:00 pm – 2:30 pm


2:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Showing of scenes / discussion and responses

Students of the Department of Theatre (UCC)

3:30 pm – 4:30 pm


Chair: Dr. Claire Edwards (Applied Social Studies/ISS21, UCC)

Contributors: Eoin Nash (Cope Foundation), Dr. Noel O’Connell (playwright and post-doctoral fellow, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick), Dr. Gill Harold (Applied Social Studies, UCC), Dr. Marie Kelly, Fionn Woodhouse and students of the Department of Theatre, UCC.



Suzanne Carey is from Listowel, Co. Kerry, but is based full-time in Cork City. She has been involved with the Deaf Community since 2001 when she started learning Spanish Sign Language while living in Madrid. She graduated from the Centre for Deaf Studies (Trinity College Dublin) in 2006 with a Diploma in ISL/English Interpreting. She received R1 grade in the SLIS accreditation process in 2009. Suzanne has a Masters in PR with New Media (CIT, 2018). Her primary degree is a BA in Applied Languages (French/Spanish, DCU), following which she worked as a full-time Spanish-English financial translator in Madrid, Spain.

Claire Edwards is Director of UCC’s interdisciplinary social science institute, ISS21 (Institute for Social Science in the 21 Century), and Lecturer in the School of Applied Social Studies.  Her background is in urban and cultural geography and social policy. After completing her doctorate in the Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London in 2000, she spent three years working in social policy research, firstly at the Disability Rights Commission and then at the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK. Claire's work revolves around three main areas (i) disability, socio-spatial (in)justice and citizenship rights (ii) urban space and urban policy processes (iii) the politics and governance of knowledge production. She has a particular interest in the socio-geographical dynamics and inequities of law and policy as they construct and address social 'problems': her most recent co-edited collection (with Eluska Fernandez) Reframing Health and Health Policy in Ireland (Manchester University Press, 2017) seeks to explore these dynamics in the context of Irish health policy. Claire has received research funding from a range of agencies, including the National Disability Authority, Irish Research Council, and EU 7th Framework programme. She is currently Principal Investigator of a 2 year (2017-19) Irish Research Council-funded study, 'Disability and the Creation of Safe(r) Space', exploring disabled people's everyday geographies of (un)safety in the context of experience or fear of violent crime and hostility in Ireland.

Ray Greene became a qualified Irish Sign Language/English Interpreter with a Diploma from the Centre for Deaf Studies, Trinity College Dublin, in June 2004. She has been working as a full time Interpreter ever since. She continues to enhance her career through actively pursuing Continuous Professional Development opportunities. The most recent being an advanced workshop in Hamburg on 'Interpreting in the Theatre’. She is involved with the 'Cork Deaf Choir' who perform regularly and enjoys interpreting in the theatre as opportunities arise. She will be interpreting for a performance of the Panto ‘Cinderella' in the Everyman Theatre this year.  Bouncy wig and big frock a must!

Gill Harold is a lecturer in the School of Applied Social Studies. Her research and teaching interests lie broadly in the area of disability social policy. With a background as a social geographer, her research interests centre on social identity and difference, related to questions of active citizenship, rights to the city, urban encounter, community and civic belonging. These interests have been mobilised in Gill’s research and publications to date, exploring Deaf experiences and the everyday social construction of place. Gill completed her PhD in the Department of Geography and School of Applied Social Studies in 2012 at UCC and her thesis was entitled 'Deafness, Difference and the City: Geographies of urban difference and the right to the Deaf city'. Between 2013-2015, Gill held an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship to work on a project entitled 'Exploring the Experiences of Deaf Victims in the Spaces and Processes of the Irish Criminal Justice System ', which she completed in the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights at the Faculty of Law in UCC. Within the School of Applied Social Studies, Gill has a designated responsibility for student support. 

Marie Kelly lectures in Theatre at the School of Music and Theatre, University College Cork where she was Head of Department from July 2015 to July 2016.  Marie began her career in theatre at the Abbey Theatre where she worked firstly as Executive Assistant to the Artistic Director and subsequently as Head of Casting. Marie has an MA in Modern Drama and Performance (2005) and a PhD in Drama Studies (2011), both from the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin. She is a member of the Board of Everyman Theatre and Vice-President of the Irish Society for Theatre Research. She has published on the plays of Tom Mac Intyre, Mark O’Rowe, and on the work of acclaimed theatre director, Katie Mitchell. Contact:

Recently published: (2017) Research/Information Pack: Katie Roche by Teresa Deevy Abbey Theatre

Eoin Nash is currently Manager of Arts and Creative Arts Therapies with Cope Foundation. Eoin completed a Bachelor of Music degree at the Cork Institute of Technology (C.I.T.), Cork School of Music and then went on to complete a Master of Arts in Music Therapy at the University of Limerick.  Following his Masters he joined the Irish Permanent Defence Forces and served as an instrumentalist, in the Band of the 1st Southern Brigade in Collins Barracks, Cork.   Eoin then went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Psychotherapy and Counselling at C.I.T. In his role in COPE Foundation Eoin manages a team of people that work locally, nationally and internationally to realise article 8, 24 and 30 of the UN CRPD (United Nations Convention of Rights for People with Disabilities).  Eoin is also the Founding Director of the Irish Performing Arts Festival (an international festival celebrating inclusive arts) and of Suisha Inclusive Arts (a community based arts initiative focused on inclusive practice). Eoin also has a keen interest in human development and has completed further training in Parent – Infant Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy at the Anna Freud Centre (London), completed training in the “CARE-Index” (assessment of risk to infants) and “Attachment and Psychopathology” in the Dynamic Maturational Model (D.M.M.) with The Family Relations Institute (Miami) and trained in child development with the “International Training School for Infancy and Early Years” (Anna Freud Centre, N.H.S. Tavistock & Portman & Yale Child Study Centre).

Noel O’Connell is a deaf scholar who recently completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Mary Immaculate College under the mentorship of Professor Jim Deegan. His doctoral work is based on an (auto)ethnographic study of deaf people’s experiences of discrimination and exclusion in social, cultural and educational contexts. His current research work is multidisciplinary where it intersects Deaf Studies with Cultural Studies, ethnotheatre, autoethnographic writing and sociology. Dr O’Connell has published widely on sign language and deaf education with a specific focus on inclusion, belonging and identity politics. His recent publication include Belonging: An Autoethnography of a Life in Sign Language (2017). He is currently working on an ethnodrama script entitled Passing as Normal. The project is funded by Art and Disability Ireland.

Fionn Woodhouse is a lecturer in the Department of Theatre, University College Cork. He is an active director, producer and facilitator of drama/theatre with particular interest in youth participation and learning through practice. 

Recently published:‘A Passion for the Arts’ Texts Around Theatre, SCENARIO Journal,

For more on this story contact:

Masterclass organisation: Dr. Marie Kelly / Fionn Woodhouse, Department of Theatre, School of Music & Theatre

Enquiries to:


Department of Theatre

Roinn na hAmharclannaíochta

Muskerry Villas, Western Road, Cork City T12 AW97