Talk with Playwright Kaite O’Reilly

Kaite O’ Reilly (5th from left), and some students and staff who attended the talk. (Photo credit: Miguel Escobar Varela)

On 19 September 2017, Theatre Studies staff and students, including a group from the University Scholars Programme, came to listen to playwright Kaite O’Reilly talk about her works and practice. O’Reilly, a playwright and poet based in the UK who has taught and collaborated in Singapore throughout the years, is an advocate and practitioner of disability arts and culture. In mid-September, she was in Singapore working on a series of monologues that were inspired by the experiences of disabled and Deaf Singaporeans.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Chan

During her talk, O’Reilly shared with us a short compilation of her works, going more in-depth into her play, the 9 Fridas. She shared with us her interest in Frida Kahlo and how she decided on using nine different characters to portray the full complexity of one of the first well-known female artists.

She then introduced disability arts and culture, emphasizing the importance of opening up more possibilities for disabled and Deaf persons to contribute to the field of theatre, whether it was by becoming professional performers or including their perspectives and experiences within theatre works. She discussed the two models of disability: the medical model and the social model. The medical model uses the diagnosed condition to identify and classify people with disabilities, and this is also the more traditional approach. The social model, however, defines disability as something that is organized through societal practice and categorization rather than an individual’s impairment. Thus, the social model seeks to find ways that society can change to create a more equal community for all people. She also mentioned that there are two kinds of barriers that disabled and Deaf people face: architectural and attitudinal. While it is important to push for architectural facilities that do not exclude people with disabilities, it is equally important to push for the change of societal attitudes.

More information on these models can be found here:

For more information on O’Reilly’s work:

(Contributed by Dr Maiya Murphy.)