Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

King Creativity at Southwestern

Spectres: A Play in Two Acts

  • Photo by Donald Tetto

By Jessica Espinoza

The two-act play Spectres attempts to examine concepts of institutionalization and its painful, dehumanizing effects. Over 5000 Texans with intellectual disabilities are currently residing in state institutions, euphemistically referred to as “state schools.” The play, which critiques the idea of imprisoning those who are slightly different from the proposed norm, chronicles the lives of five people who are in some way considered socially deviant living in the equivalent of a “state school.” There will be various consultants helping with dramaturgical and structural aspects of the project, which will appear on April 16 through 18, 2009. These consultants include Austin playwright and Southwestern adjunct professor Colin Denby Swanson, St. Edward’s University Professor of Playwriting Dr. Sarah Myers, and Associate Professor of Feminist Studies Dr. Allison Kafer. The faculty advisor for the project is Dr. Kathleen Juhl. The idea for the play was first conceived after viewing Jeff Garrison-Tate’s phenomenal documentary Forgotten Lives, which examines Texas state institutions and the rather grisly events which occur all too commonly within their walls. Garrison-Tate, a professional actor trained at New York University who gave up acting to become an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities, will be conducting a workshop with the cast and production staff of this play, as well as deliver a lecture to the campus community about theatre and activism. For his time and effort, Mr. Garrison-Tate will receive a stipend of 1000 dollars. There will be a documented discussion with audience members after each performance to assess the play’s reception and the worth of the material.