International Women’s Day with Lyrici Arts: What does it really mean to inspire inclusion in the theatre

Rachel Jones, BSL interpreter with Lyrici Arts, explores the ways the theatre community can inspire and implement inclusion.

The cast of Soul Food share their performances whilst Rachel signs in BSL.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, it’s crucial to delve into the essence of inclusion, especially in the vibrant world of theatre. At Lyrici Arts, we believe that fostering inclusivity isn’t just about representation; it’s about creating spaces where every voice is heard, every story is valued, and every individual feels empowered to shine. 

To us, inclusion means embracing diversity in all its forms – gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, and beyond. It’s about acknowledging the richness that comes from different perspectives and experiences, and narratives that resonate with audiences from all walks of life. 

Passion drives our commitment to inclusion. We’re passionate about our job because we recognize the transformative power of theatre to challenge norms, provoke thought, and spark change. By amplifying marginalized voices and shedding light on untold stories, we strive to make theatre a reflection of the diverse world we live in.  

At Lyrici Arts, we are committed to this vision of inclusion. Through our productions, workshops, and community engagement initiatives.  

As a Black British Sign Language interpreter, my journey in the world of theatre has been shaped by a deep sense of passion, purpose, and a commitment to fostering inclusivity. With each performance, I strive to bridge the gap between the Deaf and hearing communities, while advocating for greater representation and accessibility in the arts. 

What inspired my career? It was a combination of personal experience, cultural identity, and a desire to be a catalyst for change. Growing up as a member of the Black community in Britain, I witnessed firsthand the barriers faced by a demographic, including Deaf individuals.  

Inclusivity in theatre goes beyond providing sign language interpretation for Deaf audience members – although that is crucial. It’s about creating a truly inclusive environment where Deaf artists, performers, and creators are actively involved in every aspect of the production process. It’s about celebrating diversity, amplifying underrepresented voices, and challenging stereotypes.  

To inspire inclusivity in theatre, there is much more that can be done. Theatre companies and organisations must prioritise hiring diverse talent, including Deaf actors, directors, and playwrights. Training programs and workshops should be accessible to aspiring Deaf artists, providing them with the skills and opportunities they need to succeed. 

Accessibility measures such as captioning, tactile interpretation, and assistive listening devices should be standard practice in all theatrical productions. Education and awareness are also key – theatre programs and schools should integrate Deaf culture and history into their curriculum, fostering greater understanding and appreciation for the Deaf community. 

One special experience that stands out to me occurred during a performance where I had the privilege of interpreting for a Deaf actress who was playing a role. As she delivered her lines in British Sign Language, I could feel the energy and emotion reverberating through the audience. Deaf and hearing individuals were moved by her performance, united in their shared experience of storytelling and connection. 

In that moment, I realised the transformative power of inclusivity in theatre. It’s about creating spaces where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued – regardless of their background or ability. As a Black British Sign Language interpreter, I am committed to continuing this journey of inspiring inclusivity in theatre and beyond, and to advocating for a world where diversity is celebrated, and all voices are heard. 

This International Women’s Day, let us celebrate the power of inclusion in theatre and beyond. Let us stand together in solidarity, championing diversity, equity, and inclusion as we work towards a brighter, more inclusive future for all. 

By Rachel Jones

Supported By

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