4/26/22 – Abigail Cline, “Lives: A Conscious Musical” (EthNoise! and Theater and Performance Studies Workshops)

Please join the EthNoise! and Theater and Performance Studies Workshops for:


Abigail Cline

MAPH Student, University of Chicago

Who will Present:

Lives: A Conscious Musical

Emily Williams, PhD Student, University of Chicago Department of Music

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

4:30–6:00 PM CST

Over Zoom

(Live ASL interpretation and Zoom live captioning will be made available for this session.)

Please register for the workshop HEREThe workshop coordinators will circulate the paper to all registrants and the Zoom link is made available upon registration.

(Please do not cite or circulate the works-in-progress without the author’s explicit consent.)

ABSTRACT: This critical paper explores two stigmatized communities, d/Deafness and mental illness, and how musical theatre can be a powerful vehicle for defamiliarizing the misunderstandings around these experiences. To demonstrate this, I have composed a full-length stage musical, Lives: A Conscious Musical, to explore and work to repair these sociopolitical concerns. When you think of musical theatre, it is likely that you don’t initially consider d/Deaf people to be part of the cast or the audience. Typical expectations around music and musical theatre are highly conditioned by able-bodied norms, including the mistaken assumptions that d/Deaf people don’t interact with sound and/or don’t like music or musicals. In reality, d/Deaf folks have a wide range of ways to interact with sound (Holmes, Maler) and respecting this diversity means aligning with the modern Deaf community’s perspective, which does not consider deafness a disability, but rather a minority identity defined by a range of sensory experiences. My artistic experiences with the d/Deaf community were my initial inspiration to compose a story in this medium. Creating musical theatre that stages both hearing and Deaf language, both hearing and Deaf ways of being, creates a valuable opportunity towards repairing a painful history of stigma that persists today. The other community addressed is those who live with mental illness. By observing trauma’s effect on the body and a variety of healing methods, particularly less conventional alternative modalities such as hypnotic past life regressions, we engage with approaching recovery as a customized, rather than one-size-fits-all, approach. My main objective is to implement progressive academic ideas, not limited to disability studies, ethnomusicology, linguistic anthropology, and psychology; into a digestible medium for mainstream audiences to experience.

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