Fully Functional Starts a Conversation About Disability, Sexuality, and Society

A co-production between Inside Out Theatre and MoMo Dance Theatre, Fully Functional is a new play that gives a voice and real presence to its artists of mixed abilities. Drawing inspiration from their own personal experiences, the artists/creators tell stories of love, sex, and romance through dance and movement.

Being late to a first date, sex poems and orgasmic shouting: it is fearless storytelling injected with humour.

But past the laughter and heartbreak of these stories, the artists ignite a conversation about how our society views persons with disabilities.

In a talk-back session after the performance, an audience member asked “what impact do you hope to have for people afraid to let others in? [I mean it’s] easy to say I want love, but to say I deserve love is a good place to start as well.”

Mark Ikeda, artistic director of MoMo Dance theatre, responded.

“We got together in a room…and talked how taboo the topic is about the intersection between disability and sexuality, and how not only does no one know how to talk about it but people are afraid to talk about it. We hope to start a conversation, start people thinking about…how certain preconceived notions or thoughts might be quite harmful”

Thomas Poulsen, one of the performing artists, followed Ikeda’s response with his own, saying “I think you indicated that fear is very much out there in the community – in the disability community.”

Fully Functional opened at the Joyce Dolittle Theatre inside The Pumphouse Theatre on December 3rd. Pictured (left to right): Stephen Henry, Gaelyn Thomson, and Kathy Austin. Photo Credit: Chantal Wall

Fully Functional opened at the Joyce Dolittle Theatre inside The Pumphouse Theatre on December 3rd, 2014. Pictured (left to right): Stephen Henry, Gaelyn Thomson, and Kathy Austin. Photo Credit: Chantal Wall

The fear Poulsen refers to is a fear of rejection that goes deeper than what one might assume. On a whole, persons with disabilities are marginalized and rejected by mainstream society.

Consider how we speak about disability.

The disabled – a homogenizing term that attempts to refer to all persons with disabilities. It is a term that ignores the fact that disabilities are various in their form and appearance. Above all, it is a damaging term that erases the individual and reduces them to a diagnosis.

Newspaper articles sometime describe wheelchair users as either “bound” or “confined” to their chair. Persons with disabilities are framed as ‘victims who suffer from’, rather than ‘persons who live with’ a disability.

And then, it is the distance “the able-bodied” maintain between themselves and persons with disabilities. This distance comes out of fear, anxiety, and discomfort. But yet, we feel comfortable enough to stare out of curiosity and to make assumptions about their lives (but never to assume that they might have their own desires for human intimacy).

So, how can one think that they deserve to be loved when they are confronted over and over again with this idea that living with a disability somehow makes you a lesser human?

On its surface, Fully Functional addresses the assumption that disability interrupts sexuality. What it also addresses is the lack of belonging persons with disabilities experience in society.

Fittingly, the play ends with a slow dance, but this time – unlike the first time – the artists invite members of the audience to come dance with them. The slow dance serves as an invitation to close the distance and to start connecting with one another.

After all, at the end of the day, we are all human beings who want to love and be loved.


Inside Out Theatre and MoMo Dance Theatre’s Fully Functional ran at the Joyce Dolittle Theatre inside The Pump House Theatre from Dec 3 – 6, 2014.

Fully Functional was created and performed by:

Kathy Austin
Emily Collins-Tucker
Stephen Henry
Thomas Poulsen
Gaelyn Thomson

Co-directors: Col Cseke and Mark Ikeda, artistic directors of Inside Out Theatre and MoMo Dance Theatre respectively.
Assistant Director: Jordan Dalley

Inside Out Theatre: http://insideouttheatre.com/
MoMo Dance Theatre: http://www.momodancetheatre.org/

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