Actor Jake Sawyers recently took part in theatre company Extant’s Pathways programme, which is a year-long bespoke training scheme for visually impaired theatremakers. Sawyers tells Giverny Masso about performing in his first drag show and why he wants to do non-visually impaired roles…
Tell me about Extant’s Pathways programme…
It’s a year-long scheme. For the first six months we took part in workshops in London. That ended in a showcase, followed by a further six months with our mentor. The industry event was advertised as a showcase, but it grew from that and became half showcase and half visual awareness training and advocacy.
What can members of the industry do to be more inclusive of visually impaired actors?
Make yourself approachable and don’t be scared to ask questions. See visually impaired actors as professional people and don’t think of us as a box to tick. Be open and know that we can do the work. I think theatre is doing a good job of being inclusive to visually impaired actors. A lot of the other creative industries could learn from theatre. There are a lot of compassionate people who work in the sector, especially in Cardiff.
Tell me about a recent performance that was important to you?
I recently did my first drag show. It’s always something I’ve been interested in doing and I’ve done a bit of stand-up comedy around visual impairment. I was given the opportunity to do a 10-minute drag piece at Wales Millennium Centre with a drag queen I know. I thought that opportunity would never come up, because a lot of drag queens come up through the club scene, and being visually impaired, I thought that scene wasn’t for me. If I was ever going to do it, it was going to be in a theatre. My act involved a lot of advocacy for visual impairment, wrapped up in humour and singing. It’s something I’m going to carry on with.