Meet our Presenters: Mindy Drapsa
Meet Mindy Drapsa, Artistic Director at the Riksteatern Crea, who will present as part of the Aesthetically Accessible Arts and Cultural Experiences panel on Tuesday 16th March 2021.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got to where you are today.
Hello, my name is Mindy, and I grew up in deaf family and deaf school, being fluent in Sign Language. For my whole life I have been a proud deaf individual and very interested in media and performance arts which led me to create my own media company producing TV programmes in sign language. When I my interests started to evolve into creative works, I ended up working as an Artistic Director for Riksteatern Crea.
What organisation do you work with / for?
I am currently working for Riksteatern Crea – a Government department financed by Riksteatern, where our goal is to produce performance arts in Swedish Sign Language. This department features as part of Riksteaterns inclusive guidelines which has been assigned by the Government.
What access and inclusion provisions, services and programmes are currently in place in your organisation?
Following the Government guidelines, the goal of our department is to provide performance arts in Swedish Sign Language. We not only to make performance arts accessible but rather ensure people who deaf are able to produce on their own terms, meaning for people who are deaf people by people who are deaf.
What are you working on at the moment?
As an Artistic Director of our department, I have two main area of responsibilities. One as a supervisor for our administrative staff and secondly as an overall creative director for our productions. Our goal is to produce 2-3 plays per year in Swedish Sign Language for children, youths and adults respectively. I am also concurrently managing and organising projects with the goal to raise awareness around Sign Language and human rights – more specifically the right to Sign Language through performance arts nationally and internationally.
Currently I am working on developing ideas behind plays that we will produce in 2022 and 2023, along with managing productions coming in 2021 including; Trollstigen (Path of Trolls) and Rampfeber (Noises Off).
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
For me, as an Artistic Director with a strong deaf identity, it’s always been eminently important to give sign language its own place to grow and be used.
I can proudly say that I achieved this when I directed the 2019 play “Home” about refugees who are deaf. The manuscript was created from the stories told by refugees who are deaf in Sign Language. We did not change or transcribe anything to a written language. The play was made accessible for hearing people by having an actor interpret from Swedish Sign Language to Swedish as the production was developed in Sign /language first.
Before starting the tour, we invited the refugees who shared their stories to be the first to watch the play. This was our way to thank them for sharing the stories and also to receive their approval – a part of our goal to make theatre accessible for all. I am very honored to have directed this play.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
There are a ton to highlight!
But one thing I have often kept in mind is that there are always ways to find money for a specific project. If you fight long enough and don’t just sit and expect the money to come to you, you might just find what you need for your projects. Another worthwhile piece advice is about teamwork. It’s important to delegate tasks that ones might not be skilled in but lead the team to the common goals. Communication and teamwork are the key to success.
What surprises you the most about your job?
Throughout the years I have been working I have witnessed too many cases where a leader invites someone with a disability to take part of their inclusive work or the like, only to work with them for a short amount of time and not really do anything to make it permanent. It surprises me to see this again and again within my industry.
Where do great ideas come from in your organisation?
Mostly in social media which is a powerful tool to use for gaining new ideas. Social media is a platform to meet, listen and include people of interest, disabilities or cultures to share their ideas.
Describe an access and inclusion solution or innovation that has inspired you and / or your work.
When I worked at my media company, I came up with the idea of implementing a Sign Language interpreter as a movable object on a video player such as Vimeo and YouTube. When it was done, we used it when interpreting an entire play and that became a new level of accessibility. This inspired me the coming years to produce accessible and inclusive work.
What is the biggest challenge that faces access and inclusion in arts and culture today?
There is a lot of ignorance among those working in inclusion. I often see a white non-disabled people being the face of inclusion, meeting related questions and controlling activities even though it would be beneficial for all to move the responsibilities to minorities and varying abilities.
They need be given space and be able to lead on their terms, so they can develop their creative works. It doesn’t come to full affect by only hiring one person who is deaf among ten employees. It should be nine employees who are deaf and one non-disabled person – or one leader who is deaf to lead ten non-disabled people. That’s a challenge I face today.
Another challenge today is online accessibility. It’s without doubt that the digital transformation off all arts and creativity is an incredible achievement, especially under these times. However, there are a tremendous amount of content that I can’t enjoy, learn from or take part in because it’s mainly in spoken with no captions or interpreting.
And again, another challenge. The difference between interpreted a play and a play in sign language. Many don’t understand what inclusion means. Hiring an interpreter for a play is not always fully inclusive. To me inclusion means a full inclusion of a person who is deaf. We have our own language and culture, so it’s no surprise that we have an extensive need to be creative on our own terms. It’s about only to translate but also to understand our needs and do it our way.
Overall, ignorance around inclusion is the greatest challenge I face.
What has been your access and inclusion highlight to date?
To me, it was when I was employed as the first Artistic Director who is deaf of Riksteatern Crea. We at Riksteatern Crea see it as an important milestone which we are very proud of. After that, for the first time, since we started back in 1970, the administrative office we are a full team of people who are deaf except for our interpreter.
What is your access and inclusion goal for the future?
To give people who are deaf more space in the industry. To let them handle important positions and decisions. To give people who are deaf the chance and opportunity to discover new industries, develop themselves and manage employees. That’s my goal – not otherwise.