The Purple Blog

The Purple Carrots Blog is an online space to share all things Purple! Learn about community members through our features, get an inside look at our innovative accessible programming, and explore the world of expressive arts in our very own Purple Carrots Drama Studio blog space.
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Purple Spotlight: Chatting with Jordan Campbell about the Purple Stage & Representation – PART 1
(May 8, 2022)

By: Kyla Platsis

This week, I (Kyla) had the privilege of chatting with one of our beloved Purple Carrots facilitators and Purple Stage Artistic Director, Jordan Campbell, to learn a little bit more about the magic that is the Purple Stage!

 

Positionality Acknowledgement

Before getting into the excitement that is all things Purple Stage related, I would like to acknowledge my own positionality. I am writing this post as an individual who identifies as neurotypical and I recognize the privilege that this can afford. I write this spotlight feature in an effort to further emphasize the need for neurodiversities to be represented in all facets of life, including and particularly in the arts. I would like this blog series to act as a means of calling out the dominance of ableism and the privileging of neurotypical identities. Throughout this post, I will be using both person-first and disability-first language in an effort to be inclusive of all of the potential preferences of our community. It is important to note that the language used should reflect the preferences of the individual(s) one is referring to.


 

When I initially sat down with Jordan who founded the Purple Stage, I asked him to tell me a little bit more about this theatre company, and his motivation behind creating it.

 

“The Purple Stage is a professional community theatre project that creates neurodiverse theatre projects with members of the Purple Carrots community. We’ve been doing this work with Purple Carrots for a few years, and a lot of our participants [whom] we’ve been working with for years have developed a lot of skills and were making a lot of really cool stuff, and we kind of just wanted to create creative job opportunities for them, and also develop the work further and be able to present it and share it with the public”.

 

Jordan himself is a theatre artist and has a great passion for producing artistic projects.

 

“I’ve been working in theatre for years. I went to theatre school and then I started working in the theatre scene in Toronto. I create and produce theatre with my own amazing collaborators and then I started facilitating at Purple Carrots- so this just kind of made sense with my skills as a theatre producer and a theatre major to make these kinds of projects with these artists”.

 

The Purple Stage is specifically for members of the neurodiverse community. Given that both neurodiverse and disabled individuals continue to be underrepresented in Hollywood and across the entertainment industry, I wanted to hear more from Jordan about what the importance was of this particular theatre company existing.

 

“There are a lot of theatre companies in Toronto that are doing different kinds of disability-focused work- many of whom I’ve worked with and many who are doing really cool stuff- but I don’t see tons of stuff that is focused on the neurological sides of things…people on the autism spectrum, people with more complex intellectual disabilities…there’s a lot of stuff around physical disabilities and like blind artists and deaf artists and artists who use wheelchairs. I don’t see tons of stuff that really integrates intellectual disabilities”.

 

Greater representation of neurodiverse identities is essential in the creative industries. Stories – whether they be on the stage, in paintings, or on the screen – are meant to be reflections of ourselves and the world around us. Whether that be giving us a glimpse into a life we’ve never lived by placing us into a character’s shoes we’ve never walked in before, showing us what our reality could be like, or better yet, showing us what our reality currently is and encouraging us to be better – stories simultaneously take us out of our own reality while still asking us to reflect upon it. How can this be truly authentic and meaningful if not everyone’s stories are being represented? How can we create a better world if we are not seeing the entirety of it?

 

As founder of EPIC Players (a neurodiverse theatre company in New York), Aubrie Therrien, states “You can’t be what you can’t see. So it’s really important for neurodiverse, neurodivergent artists to see themselves represented on stage and screen, and know that it is a job they can do. The arts are a viable employment opportunity. And right now, people with disabilities are severely unemployed in this country” (Song, 2022, para.5). The same can certainly be recognized in Canada. In fact, Jordan identified the creation of creative job opportunities as another reason why both Purple Carrots and the Purple Stage are important:

 

“…I think it’s significant that we create jobs…like creative jobs for this community that really meet their needs”.

 

GLAAD’s (as cited in Song, 2022) “Where We Are in TV” 2019 report found that only 2.1% of characters (which is the equivalent of a mere 18 characters) on scripted primetime television represented persons with disabilities. Just last year, a number of actors and professionals working within the entertainment industry signed an open letter asking that Hollywood act in an effort to end the significant discrimination and exclusion of artists with disabilities (Ali, 2021). One of the demands this open letter made was for the inclusion of disability officers in major studios (Ali, 2021). The role of disability officers would essentially be to address ableist practices that create barriers for many artists (Ali, 2021). Another open letter that was created in 2019 stated that out of “…the 61 Oscar nominees and 27 winners who had played characters with a disability, only two had been authentically portrayed by an actor with a disability” (Ali, 2021, para.7). This is an appalling fact that demonstrates the ableism that lies within creative arts professions.

 

When I asked Jordan if he had any final thoughts that he wanted to share about the Purple Stage, it was about the necessity of creating jobs in the entertainment industry for neurodiverse artists and having the world recognize their work. This seems to be part of a growing conversation – there has started to be some progress in terms of the creation of opportunities for neurodiverse individuals in the arts. For example, Summit School which is located in Montréal, will house the first creative arts center for neurodiverse students in Canada (Schwartz, 2022). There is without a question though, a great deal that still needs to be done.

 

 “I guess I would just say that, as much as it’s for the community, it’s about creating these jobs and creating these projects. A big part of the Purple Stage is about sharing the work with the public, and people’s responses to the first project were really cool. People, I think, learned a lot about themselves and about how they are in the world, so I’m really excited to get back to that. That’s what I’m really thinking about is just returning to the main goal of this, to share the work more broadly and get more people to see the kind of stuff we’re doing. I mean even the class I just did in the winter with the youth class, I really just think it was such a cool show we made and I was like ‘this is something cool people should see’. I do believe that’s what’s important about it, people seeing it as professional theatre”.

 

Thank you for reading and to Jordan for taking the time! This is only part 1 of our series on the Purple Stage – be sure to stay tuned for the final part of our conversation with Jordan about the Purple Stage and representation.

How excited are you for upcoming Purple Stage projects?
Be sure to show them some love and encouragement on Purple Carrots’ Facebook and Instagram!

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Purple Spotlight: Meet the Interns (Feb 24, 2022)

 

Introducing Our Purple Carrots Interns…Erica Gellert & Kyla Platsis!

This week we chatted with the newest members of the Purple Carrots Family to get to know a little bit more about them. Erica and Kyla are both Child and Youth Care (CYC) students completing their internship hours here with us.

Check out their interview below!


What is your professional experience? What are you studying in school?

 Erica: I have been working in the field of child care for five years now, beginning my journey as a drama and arts camp counselor at the YMCA. From there, I’ve been able to secure opportunities to work with children and youth around Toronto. I am currently studying to be a child and youth worker at George Brown College.

Kyla: I am currently a graduate student in the Masters of Child and Youth Care Program at X [Ryerson] University. It’s been a really wonderful experience so far! I would say that I’m still getting started in this field. I have worked in after-school programs with elementary school-aged children and I have also worked in the non-profit sector. Specifically, I am the co-founder of a youth-led grassroots organization called The Rights Project (TRP). We are based in the GTA and we aim to make legal resources and supports more accessible to young people. We also facilitate discussions and workshops that are grounded in social justice.

Awesome! Tell me more about what drew you to Purple Carrots Drama Studio? Or how did it come into your life?

Erica: I was working with an individual as a support worker over the summer, and her parents were aware I had a background in theatre and they had their daughter enrolled in Purple Carrots programming. Putting two and two together, the parents put me in touch with Alana at Purple Carrots and from there I was able to weasel my way in!

Kyla: I genuinely feel like Purple Carrots was meant to come into my life. I grew up loving theatre and performing, I used to do school plays and choir in elementary school. I even took ballet and jazz recreationally for 10 years! I feel like I never really had the confidence growing up to pursue it any further though. It has always been a part of my heart, and as a kid, I used to get so lost in a performance that I forgot anyone was watching at all. I think that the arts are freeing and that they allow young people to explore their feelings in whatever ways feel meaningful to them. That being said, I learned about expressive arts therapy in my undergrad and became really passionate about incorporating the arts and play into my CYC professional practice. I hadn’t heard about Purple Carrots prior to starting grad school, but I told my internship coordinator that I was very interested in expressive arts and play therapy and she suggested it to me. I started doing some more research and immediately fell in love with this amazing place! I really wanted to be here, and I feel really grateful that I am. It’s given me the opportunity to explore the artistic part of myself more. I have learned so much in my short amount of time.

Tell me a little bit more about yourselves. Anything at all that you would like to share?

Erica: I have a background in theatre and still perform frequently in Toronto. I am a comedian, writer, as well as a not-too-shabby tapestry artist! I love anything in the realm of arts. I spend all of my free time going to concerts, galleries, or workshops to gain a new skill! A goal of mine is to incorporate therapeutic expressive arts activities into working with children, youth and families who seek those services.

Kyla: As a CYC practitioner I am really passionate about social change, which is why my work with TRP is so important to me. It has given me the opportunity to work on projects that carry impact. For example, we are currently working on a legal toolkit for students that features sections of Housing, Criminal and Employment law, as well as resources that would be relevant to them like educational supports. I also feel really passionate about amplifying youth voice and advocating for young people to be given greater recognition in social and political decisions. This world belongs to them too, and they should have a say in every matter that impacts it. This is also why our organization is youth-led. Otherwise, I would say that I am a musical theatre nerd who loves writing, my family and friends are my world, and I love singing – that doesn’t mean that I’m good at it though!

That is so cool! You both bring such different, valuable perspectives to Purple Carrots.
What have you enjoyed most about working at Purple Carrots so far?

Erica: So far, I’ve enjoyed the PEOPLE! Everyone from the Purple team to the participants make me extremely happy. I love being a carrot!

Kyla: I’m going to have to echo Erica here and say the people. This is such a supportive community.


What is your favourite part of any of the programs that you are a part of?

Erica: My favorite part of the programs I am assisting is the open and frequent communication. It makes for an excellent workshop, and a happy family!

Kyla: I would have to say the performances! Everyone here is so creative in different ways, and it is amazing to see how everyone’s presentation is unique. They always give it their all, they put their whole hearts into it. Every performance I have seen always carries so much meaning to the person.

Awe, that is so good to hear!
What is one memorable moment you can tell me about that you have had during your placement so far?

Erica: One memorable moment was having a participant sing an entire song from West Side Story while on a snack break. They were so passionate and full of joy that it made me excited to get to know them more. They are incredibly kind and so talented! I’m so happy Purple Carrots brought us together.

Kyla: I don’t have a lot of experience with doing improv. On my first day, I was asked to be a part of an improvised scene and even though I was very nervous, the group just really made me feel comfortable and they were teaching me as I moved along. We did a really fun, winter-themed scene where I ended up falling while skiing and every single Purple Carrot got involved! I believe it ended with someone using their magic powers to make hot chocolate, and a Holiday movie.

That is amazing!
Is there anything else you would like to tell our Purple Carrots community?

Erica: Purple Carrots has inspired how I approach Child and Youth Care in the best of ways. Every workshop enlightens me, and I know that my experience as a field placement student here will benefit my future career as a CYC greatly.

Kyla: I think just that I feel really grateful to be a part of this community now. The Purple Carrots team has really allowed me to take my own initiative and get creative with my internship experience, and I can’t express how appreciative I am of that. Like Erica said, I’m also learning so much about expressive arts, and it is learning that I will be able to carry into my CYC practice.

There is one question that we like to end all of our spotlights with, and that is what does leading a purple life look like to you?

Erica: A purple carrot lifestyle to me means accepting everyone for where they are at, and celebrating them. I think sharing art and expressing oneself through creative ways is a unique way to connect with others, no matter their ability. That to me is leading a purple carrot life!

Kyla: I think leading a purple life means being bold and unapologetically yourself. I think it also means taking pride in who you are and uplifting others. I feel like I have seen that in all of the Purple Carrots. To me, it also means caring about community, leading with your heart and being intentional about putting more brightness into the world.

What a beautiful way to wrap up our spotlight on Erica and Kyla – Thank you for reading!

 

Why is art and drama important to you?
Be sure to answer this question on Purple Carrots’ Facebook and Instagram.

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