Michèle Taylor is Director for Change at Ramps on the Moon, the consortium enriching theatre bringing more work by disabled and D/deaf people into the mainstream.
Six Questions with Michèle Taylor.
1. What inspired you to work in Theatre and Arts?
I first worked in theatre as a performer in Theatre in Education (my Clockwork Mouse was something to behold!), developing my interests and experience into writing and directing. I wrote for both Roundabout and Graeae some years ago and could not get enough of the power of stories to reflect, affirm and alter people’s experiences. This feels particularly important as a disabled person: the stories we see in our theatres have the power to challenge and to nurture people’s expectations and assumptions.
2. If you weren’t the Director of Ramps on the Moon, what other path would you have chosen?
Well, in fact, being Director for Ramps on the Moon is only a part of what I do: I am still maintaining a portfolio of Disability Equality Training and consultancy to support arts organisations to ensure that the work and contributions of disabled and D/deaf people are taken seriously. I’m also a qualified psychotherapist, an accredited coach and a Fine Art Photographer. I think that’s plenty! But, in terms of what I would do if I wasn’t working in the arts at all, forensic science possibly…
3. Your background and experience is in coaching and training, how did you decide to apply this to theatre?
I absolutely believe that self-awareness is the most important characteristic in developing as a skilled actor; my passions for theatre and for facilitating people to develop their self-awareness developed in parallel. So, it wasn’t a decision so much as an organic process. One of my favourite quotations is from (of all people) Dolly Parton who said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose” and it seems to me that this is where self-awareness, self-development and storytelling come together. My training as a coach and as a psychotherapist taught me the importance of an attitude of curiosity, and this is a really useful approach when working with organisations and individuals to work with equality and diversity - listening and understanding are such important first steps in supporting change.
I am a big fan of the Myers Briggs Type Inventory, and learning about my own profile (INTP for anyone who’s familiar with MBTI) was really helpful in understanding that I am someone who makes connections in even apparently disparate areas of my life. Incidentally, MBTI is brilliant for helping people understand the importance of respecting difference, not from some sort of moral imperative but because we need diversity in order to be able to function.
4. Is there any particular passion you have that you believe drives your work?
Lots of them! Fundamentally, though, it’s a belief that normalising the place of disabled and D/deaf people in theatre is not a matter of doing the right thing, or even of social justice; it’s certainly not about compliance. It’s about cultural enrichment. Without disabled and D/deaf people, the landscape of theatre is impoverished - yes, because our stories matter too, but also because it stands to reason that there are going to be times when the best person for the job just happens to be someone who is disabled.
5. Where do you see the accessibility and inclusivity within theatre in five years’ time?
More disabled and D/deaf people on stages in parts not specifically written for someone disabled, and nobody really even notices. Disabled and D/deaf people getting writing commissions, directing work and (maybe in 10 years’ time rather than 5) leading organisations that do not have disability as a specific remit. In short, disabled and D/deaf people shifting what we understand by ‘mainstream’.
6. Finally, what excites you the most about what you are doing?
That it seems to be making a difference. I see theatres doing things differently and I see individuals understanding why this is important. Finally.
Connect with Michèle: Twitter