Welsh theatre company Hijinx has launched a casting agency for learning-disabled actors, in an attempt to give them more exposure in the industry.
Hijinx, which stages work with and trains actors with learning disabilities, is creating the online agency with digital innovation funding from the Arts Council of Wales and Nesta.
Based on a similar model to Spotlight, the agency is the result of a project exploring how better to support learning-disabled actors in Wales.
Over the past four years, Hijinx has grown to encompass five training academies for learning-disabled actors, at four locations spread across Wales. It now works with about 60 actors with learning disabilities, who will be represented on the casting site.
Vanessa Morse, Hijinx’s marketing manager, said: “Our job is to pioneer training for learning-disabled actors but also promote them to the industry and get work for them. Learning-disabled people have a low profile, so how are we going to promote them to the industry?
“We’re fighting against misconceptions of disability in the industry. There’s an association with disability and low quality in the arts. We know that not to be the case but we had to create an offensive against that.”
She added: “Over the years, physical disability has become more visible on our screens and stages, but we still feel that learning-disabled actors are quite invisible. They’re not getting the same exposure that even physically disabled actors get.”
Each actor’s page on the site will be accompanied by an introduction to themselves, including information such as the types of work for which they are suitable.
Morse said the company hoped this would address some of the concerns and questions held by casting directors over learning-disabled actors.
“We are trying to be realistic in addressing those, but we always want our actors to speak for themselves and so the site will do that,” she said.