Ethnography and Performance
Cassandra Hartblay’s I WAS NEVER ALONE is a documentary play based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted by playwright-ethnographer Cassandra Hartblay in Russia. The 90-minute play is comprised of six monologues or portraits, which are nearly entirely composed of quotes transcribed from ethnographic interviews with real people, whose life experiences form the inspiration for each character. The people whose stories inspired the play had input in script development, and approved the resulting representations.
The background research for this play was funded by the National Science Foundation, and subsequently, process stagings to develop the script have been held at UC San Diego, UNC Chapel Hill, and Yale University.
The work is now in development as a teaching volume, to include the script of the play, a description of the research process, a reflective essay on the ways in which disability theatre offers insights into performances of accessibility as rituals of care, and further context about doing critical disability studies in the context of contemporary post-Soviet Russia. The book also includes exercises for doing and teaching performance ethnography.
Future iterations of this project include plans to use a staging of the work as a critical design research lab for recording innovation and rituals for accessible theatre – not only as a an ethos, but as an aesthetic.
More about the play here.