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April 5, 2004

Presentation of Rosetta LeNoire Award to Kitty Lunn By Julia Breanetta Simpson, Co-Chair, Equity’s EEO Committee

Although the Rosetta LeNoire Award officially recognizes theatres and individuals that have made significant contributions toward increasing diversity and non-traditional casting in theatre and, while that is certainly the case with this year’s recipient as well, I feel that equal emphasis and recognition should also be given to Kitty Lunn’s major accomplishments in ensuring contractual protections and provisions for talented union actors that have a disability.

As some of you might already know, Kitty was for many years an Equity Counselor and concurrently served on the AFTRA Board as well as chairing the Equity Performers with Disability Committee, and it was while she served in this capacity that she expanded our definition of non-traditional casting to include not only actors of color, women and seniors but also actors with disabilities, a feat that she accomplished despite some considerable opposition.

And while we still have a long way to go to achieve true equal employment opportunities for actors with disabilities, cast either traditionally, in disabled specific roles, or non-traditionally, Kitty has certainly led and advanced this issue both as an adroit advocate at the collective bargaining table, at industry meetings and public forums but also as an actor. In the former category, Equity, as well as AFTRA and SAG, largely has Kitty to thank for contract language ensuring that required audition material will be made available, prior to the audition, to blind and visually impaired actors, that when deaf actors are sought that a qualified sign language interpreter will be provided and when auditions are held in premises that are not architecturally accessible and a performer with mobility impairment wishes to audition that an alternate site will be provided. In the latter category Kitty’s work on stage and on television, in such diverse productions as THE CHAIKEN PROJECT, ALL ABAOUT ME, AGNES OF GOD, SHADOWS TO SUNLIGHT and on AS THE WORLD TURNS, served to remind us that a disability does not affect an actor’s ability to move and enthrall an audience.

However ultimately Kitty returned to her first true artistic calling, being a dancer. Prior to becoming a person with a disability Kitty trained and worked as a dancer with the Washington Ballet and the New Orleans Civic Ballet and, given the fortitude that she has always displayed, Kitty set about the task of placing herself back in a dance class, despite the scarcity of classes that are open to or even willing to accept people with disabilities. Deciding that the only way to make a real difference, and to again challenge people’s perceptions of what or who is a dancer, was to form her own dance company and that led to the birth of INFINITY DANCE THEATRE, which is a non-traditional dance company for dancers with disabilities and non-disabled dancers beyond the age range traditionally associated with performing. INFINITY’S mission is to bring the joy and drama of motion and movement to a new level of parity between the dancers with disabilities and those without a disability and to abstain from the stereotype and apparatus-driven device of having these dancers do “wheelies,” thereby fully integrating all of the dancers into the emotional core of the piece. Drawing on her own training, Kitty has developed a training methodology that relies on a system of movement and balance for dancers using wheelchairs.

Since its inception INFINITY DANCE THEATRE has provided a host of dancers of a certain age and dancers with disabilities with an opportunity to express their artistry. INFINITY has gained renown by performing, both nationally and internationally, such works as “In Time Like Air” “Hoop-La” “Access” “Fly” and “Last Night of the World.” And it you have never attended a performance by INFINITY DANCE THEATRE then you have truly missed an exceptional and thrilling evening of true dance theatre.

It is my distinct pleasure and privilege to present the 2004 Rosetta LeNoire Award to Kitty Lunn.

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