Although it's a workday, I've got wine flu. Our four-show season of Quippings at Melbourne Fringe Festival ended last night. We celebrated with drinks and dancing. My body is sore from twirling a gymnastic ribbon and my throat is gravely from singing Khe Sanh. But I'm on top of the world.
Quippings is a Melbourne based disability performance troupe that I've been a part of for almost three years.
As we toasted the show last night, we talked about what Quippings means to us. All of us said that through it, we've found our tribe. These are our people. People who understand disability issues and aren't afraid to speak about them. We're not afraid to laugh at our disabilities - in a way that takes back our power. We invite the public gaze (literally in our Fringe show - beckoning audience members to look at us, and laughing and pointing at them just as the public has done to us) and we satirise the disability sector. It's such a safe space - body positive and sex positive. This isn't disability like many people assume. We remove negative connotations. We don't want pity, we are empowered. We are so proud.
During the toast, I talked about my first Quippings experience - being in the audience after The Other Film Festival around three years ago. New York actress Christine DeZinno Bruno was performing, and so were some of my Quippings colleagues. I just didn't know I would be involved then. I admitted to being a little shell shocked, my mind was open to butt plugs for the first time. Four months later, I received a message from Kath, butt plug educator asking me to fill in for a performer that night. Shit, I thought. I might have to talk about butt plugs. At a sex bookshop! But I don't know anything about butt plugs! Kath assured me I didn't have to. Phew! So I read out Untouched. It received roaring applause. And then, I guess, I became a performer.
This Melbourne Fringe Festival, our troupe comprised Jax Jacki Brown, Jarrod Marrinon, Kath Duncan, Natalie Corrigan, Ross Cottee, Sonia Marcon, Emma J Hawkins, Daye Han and I. There has been rock and roll, comedy, singing, spoken word, dance, a unicorn doing gymnastics and satirical skits. It's been so much fun. Moving too. I've cried in all four shows. It's been a difficult year for many of us - we're grieving from losing two friends (including Jarrod's partner) in the disability community. Jarrod said Quippings has kept him going. Jax told us last night that she moved from regional NSW to Melbourne because she'd heard about Quippings. Quippings has given my Adam a gift too - he was front of house this year - greeting audience members and setting up lights. His confidence has soared. He feels one of us.
When I talk about disability to some people, they perceive it negatively. It's a bad word. Disability doesn't belong to me. I'm not like those people, they tell me. They're uncomfortable yet earnest about disability - sharing viral posts of disabled people, overcoming. That makes me uncomfortable. We're not there for the public gaze unless we invite it. We don't have to overcome or be a viral sensation to become more 'normal' or make people feel comfortable about disability. But I am like those people - and I am proud of that. And I wish everyone who thinks this way could see a Quippings show and realise disability is not a tragedy.
My part in the Fringe show was reading out an amended version of my letter to my future child. As I read the line "Disability will not be the worst thing to happen to you as my child, or for me as your mother. The worst thing that could happen is other peoples’ closed-mindedness", I thought about how being a part of Quippings has meant that identifying with a disability has not been the worst thing that's happened to me. It's been one of the best things. My closed mindedness has become a little less and I've opened my world to beautiful friends, forward thinkers and the realisation that I'm not alone.
It's been hard work. We've given up about seven weekends and sent countless messages across the troupe, refining our performance. But so worth it. Our professionalism has been top notch - not at all hampered by accessibility issues. There's no such thing as too disabled to perform in Quippings, one performer joked. During our toast, we concurred we're the progressive disability community - there's no one doing what we are. I can't wait to see where it takes us next. I love us.
Thank you to everyone who has come out to see us play.
Quippings performs regularly at Hares and Hyenas. Follow our Facebook page for our schedule.