The DisAbility Project

Since 1996, That Uppity Theatre Company has focused on developing projects that bring together amateur performers with professional artists to create innovative material based on lived experience. In 1995, theatre artist Joan Lipkin and occupational therapist Fran Cohen co-founded "the DisAbility Project." Comprised of people with and without disabilities to model inclusion, the project creates and tours original material about the culture of disability. We have performed for almost 100,000 people, received numerous awards and international recognition as one of the oldest and few projects of its kind in the country.

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"Creative and moving. You realize it could be you. It makes you think how you would respond if it were you. "

Shari Lyn Terry,
Drama/Speech Teacher/Director

We rehearse most Thursdays in space donated by Central Reform Congregation, in the Central West End of the city of St. Louis. Most rehearsals are open to the public. Our season runs September through July, with the majority of our performances taking place throughout Missouri and Illinois.

People with disabilities are typically absent from representation and participation in our cultural landscape. According to the 2000 Missouri Census, an estimated 17% of the population in the state experiences some form of disability, whether it is sensory, cognitive, or mobility related. With over 55 million people with disabilities in the United States, it is the largest and most financially challenged population in the country.

Now in its 17th season, the DisAbility Project brings awareness and sensitivity to issues in the disability community through a combination of art and advocacy that tours to a variety of audiences. The project presents at educational institutions, conferences, special events, festivals, religious and civic groups, and corporations.

Our group is comprised of people with and without disabilities who are diverse in age, race, ethnicity, class, occupation, education, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, and performance experience.

Some of the challenges facing participants include alcoholism, amputation, asthma, bipolar disorder, blindness, brain injury, cancer, cerebral palsy, cognitive delay, depression, Down syndrome, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, polio, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, and stroke.

Ensemble members engage in conversation, writing, sound, movement and theatrical exercises to create educational and entertaining performance pieces on the culture of disability. Many people with disabilities are finding both a sense of community and an outlet for their talents in the project, while our artists without disabilities have had their worldview expanded.

In recognition of our groundbreaking work, we have received numerous awards including the Governor’s Council on Disability Community Enhancement, Focus What's Right with the Region for Improving Racial Equality and Social Justice, John van Voris, Human Rights Campaign Organizational Equality Award, and Arts for Life Special Recognition among others.