Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Pop Quiz

A curtain.

What a wonderful idea.

I was in Atlantic City giving a lecture for the day there and went down to check the lecture hall in the hotel. I knew that they had arranged a ramped stage for me as they were anticipating a fairly large audience. My experience of these ramps is inconsistent. Sometimes they are flimsy and scary. Sometimes they are narrow, about as wide as a dolly. Sometimes they are perfectly suited for the job they were crafted for. So, as I was in Atlantic City I have to say it, it's a crap shoot.

Well, the ramp was just perfect, easy to use, a good width, a slow and easy rise. But what I liked about it was that it was set up behind a curtain. I sometimes feel that people with disabilities are on display and our movements somehow are cause for curiosity. I always get on stages really early so that I don't have to be cumbersome or clumsy in front of watcher/gawker types. I am a people watcher so I know that most are watching just because it's something to watch, no intrusion intended. Well, unintended does not mean unfelt.

I loved being able to get up and down from the stage in complete privacy. It worked perfectly for me. Interestingly though, I was asked by someone at the conference if I thought that the curtain was a way of 'closeting' my disability. As if it was something shameful that needed to be hidden away - rather than something to be out in plain view.

I admit to being flabbergasted. Clearly there are two ways to view every situation. I am wondering about all of you. Was the curtain a thing designed to give privacy or was it something which indicated the hiding way of shameful movement?

I truly would like your opinion.

27 comments:

Kristin said...

I think it was designed to give you privacy. Don't really know why...actually, I do. I tend to think good of people until proven otherwise.

Parker said...

Well, I guess that question would really have to go to the people who actually designed the set up, but since you asked... :) I have a feeling that their intention was privacy. As a member of the audience, I probably would have thought the curtain was pretty cool, adding a bit of drama to the experience. Obviously it raised a red flag for at least one other person though, so perhaps regardless of the intention, the message that was sent needs more consideration.

(long-time reader, but first-time commenter!)

Anonymous said...

In many situations speakers present themselves by walking out from behind a curtain without the audience having seen them get to the point of entry...walking, wheeling, why worry. It's really just getting to the place you need to be conveniently regardless of a curtain. Some people over think things.

Heidi said...

Thank you for this blog - I had forgotten we are fast approaching christmas and need to be having (early) conversations with our schools regarding plays,concerts and performances! The pupils' dignity is paramount, so we tend to use things like a curtain or screen for getting onto the stage if situations are less than ideal. If however there is proper access, pupils usually like making their own way onto the stage along with their friends. I know from years of working with families, this particular thing i.e. the "entrance" is a real concern/anxiety/worry. - I guess it's that "first impressions" thing... not really noticed when things are right, but tainting everything and coming back to haunt when they're not - not that any examples are springing to mind of course!

theknapper said...

I don't have an opinion on this one....to me it's personnel preference.

The Untoward Lady said...

Dave, do you think that having some skirting that covers the ramp itself yet doesn't obscure the entire person be a good compromise? I would feel that it would give the person a bit of privacy in terms of what they are actually doing in negotiating the ramp yet would not hide them away.

Kinda like those funny little "walls" they often place between urinals. They "give you privacy" without actually hiding what you're doing (or hiding much of anything, really!).

Jan said...

I would think the curtain would be a privacy issue. I don't know why I feel that as I have never been on stage and if I was I might never come out from behind the curtain. Kudos to you for being able to speak in public and come out from behind the curtain

Rebecca said...

I agree completely with anonymous above, the curtain just reminds me of the standard procedure used in the theatre

Rebecca said...

I agree completely with anonymous above, the curtain just reminds me of the standard procedure used in the theatre

coffeetalk said...

Dave, it's unfortunate that you have to even think about how other people feel about the way you get on stage. I'm all for whatever gets you on there comfortably. I have done some local theatre work and will admit that I don't like entering the stage from the floor in front of everyone as I feel clumsy and awkward walking up the stairs. Not knowing the ramp situation everytime, I totally understand how you would not want people watching you're entrance if the ramp is anything but perfect. The long and the short of it is this for me: You don't strike me as a person who is hiding his disability and you have far more important things to share with your audiences than how you enter the stage. Curtain, no curtain....whatever. Just keep sharing what you know and I'm happy. Have a wonderful day.

Anonymous said...

I think the curtain was likely there because the person who made the ramp built it as he had seen them done in theatres.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Hi, about to get in the car and drive to the next gig in Montreal. Got an email from someone not wanting to leave a comment ... thought it was funny so asked if I could put it here - she said I could. It was simply ... sometimes a curtain is just a curtain.

I think there may be something to that.

Belinda said...

I think it's about whatever affords the greatest dignity and respect, and also appearing at just the right moment, when you are ready to be announced! :)

Brenda said...

I don't think it was intended for privacy OR for the purpose of hiding something. I think it simply gives the speaker/performer a chance to make a grand entrance. Sort of like: "Heeeeeeere's Davie!" (sounds of applause and much 'whoop-whooping')!

Anonymous said...

I think it's standard for most theaters above a certain size and level of sophistication (or just, above a certain budget level!) to have curtains that make it easier to hide just how people get up onto the stage. It's one more way of creating the illusion that the actors on the stage really did come to the colorful market on the stage from, let's say, the castle that the audience knows is REALLY THERE in the right wing even though they can't see it. The curtain allows them to pretend that it's there and that the actors are coming straight from this unseen castle. It's one of the various things stage theaters do to encourage suspension of disbelief for people watching fictional plays. It was probably designed that way without any thought how it might be interpreted when a person is really only getting on the stage to give a talk with no "suspension of disbelief" involved, required, or desired.

Do you know if the theater is/was also used at times, currently and/or in the past, for delivering performances of fictional plays? If yes, that may be your answer.

Andrea S.

Noddy said...

I would not have thought of either, but that the curtain was there to focus attention on the stage and the events happening there.

FridaWrites said...

I don't know, but I do know that it can feel awkward/intrusive for me when people gawk when I am getting in and out of the car. I don't really want people to know how we transfer in and out and what the extent of my capabilities/incapabilities are. But often I turn back to a collection of slack-jawed faces. People will actually stop everything they're doing and watch from the sidewalk. Now I've told my husband to please stop and notice first if we have a sea of people waiting to get me out before he does so.

Sometimes, my daughter says, since she can turn around in her seat (I can't), that people are ticked that my husband has pulled into disabled parking, watch him unload the wheelchair, and then their mood changes and they want to see the rest of the "show."

If we had a regular wheelchair van, I would be sitting in the wheelchair already or transfer inside the van, thus taking away some of their entertainment.

FridaWrites said...

I guess I'm not stating this well--not feeling well. Going from my experience only, which is the only life experience I have with disability, it seems to me to provide a measure of privacy. I have had gawking at wind-around ramps, too, and get to the top, and there's the crowd. I don't consider ramp going as private as transferring (where my clothing may leave me exposed as my husband helps), but it does take away some of the "look! a wheelchair!" factor. So the curtain offers privacy, although maybe not all people with disabilities need it, some might appreciate it.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

It is hard to know what motivated the people who put up the curtain. I am inclined to think it is just standard practice - the speaker comes on stage from behind a curtain.

Most important though is how it made you feel - and you liked it.

Colleen

Annamarie said...

I was at the marina as a part of the arc's staff day. i completely enjoyed everything you spoke about. i even would have skipped lunch to hear you more haha. i didnt even notice the ramp until reading this and then had to think about it. i was on the side where the ramp was visible, but was that really the point of why you where there? With the Arc i support a women who uses a wheelchair and without even asking i often park in an area where she is able to get out of the van without having to be looked at when she is simply trying to live her life. I would like to belive it was set up like it was for privacy reasons. Not becuawse they were trying to mask somthing, but to make you more comfortible. I cant wait to hear you speak again

Susan said...

Why would anyone think they have the right to ask that question? Did they think it their "responsibility" to force you to look into your own motives? It's clear they'd already made their judgments or they wouldn't have asked the question. Totally rude... Why do some people have to read something into EVERYthing - especially those things which don't concern them whatsoever.

Why don't they go look into their motives for asking such a question? Maybe they felt deprived for not being able to watch this time...

Sheesh.

What do I think? I think you don't have to answer questions like that...

Casey from Chatham said...

I believe if you experienced it as privacy, that's what it was. Just like some stairs are open and some are closed, ramps come in various configurations. Sounds a bit Freudian to analyze it in any other way than having good access. If the curtain was not there, you still would have gone up I presume.

CAM said...

Were there stairs? Were they behind a curtain? A person using a ramp needs to be as interesting and common place to watch as a person using the stairs, regardless of why the curtain was there.

Dave Hingsburger said...

CAM, the stairs were not behind the curtain, they were just behind the front corner. You'd climb up them and then walk to the podium. Susan, I'd never thought of it that way, thanks. All of you ... fascinating read, I wrote this and then thought ... I wonder if anyone will be at all interested in such an archane topic. I guess you are, I've an interesting bunch of readers I must say.

Kara Janson said...

Having been there, I presumed it was erected to give the stage dimension. Boy you would have looked great if you made a grand entrance from behind the curtain and it would have been a lovely "movie fade-out" style exit to see you fade off stage after the standing ovation. Thanks for the great afternoon!

Alison said...

Actually, I would assume it's an aesthetic issue -- the stage amanger or theater manager probably thinks the ramp itself is not very attractive. Especially if it's solidly reinforced -- there's probably alot of 'underpinning' that is functional, but not lovely.

Rikke said...

When I read about the curtain, alarm bells also went off in my head. Why should your way of getting up on stage be hidden away, as if it is somehow inappropriate rather than simply a way of getting from A to B? Did the people, who could walk come out from behind a curtain?

But then again, I am probably overthinking things, having worked with and thought about people with disabilities for many years and being passionate about people's right to be who they are. In the end of the day, if you, being the person in the wheelchair felt they got it right - then they did!