CMU School of Drama

Monday, April 03, 2017

Mat Fraser, Disabled Actor And Advocate, Will Portray Richard III In New Play An actor born with defects resulting from the drug Thalidomide has been cast as Shakespeare’s loathed and lauded villain Richard III in a new theatre production.

American Horror Story star Mat Fraser, who has a keen interest in promoting disability representation on all stages, will star in Richard III, a new play that is part of the Hull 2017 UK City of Culture program.

Mr. Fraser has phocomelia – a disorder involving malformation of the limbs – due to his mother being prescribed the drug during pregnancy.


Alexa James-Cardenas said...

I am reminded of the beginning sentence of Viktoria Modesta’s, a singer, music video Prototype, “Forget what you know about disability”. The music video is then proceeded with Modesta, who had to leg amputated because of a condition, in a position of power and beauty, which mesmerizes you for the rest of the video. Which, for me relates to the part in the article where it says that Fraser didn’t want to just talk about overcoming disability, but have it more be about his work and art. I do think that sometimes people get so worked up on the correctness of things, the treading carefully around “touchy” topics/issues, that they forget about the person and the passion (the art). What I am guessing is that what makes Mat Fraser an interest isn’t his disability, but rather the quality of it. He is a good actor period. Like Modesta’s video, what made her video wasn’t just her leg, but the look that she gave the camera that read “This is me”. So truly “forget what you know about disability”, because it doesn’t define a person.

Sasha Schwartz said...

I remember watching the behind-the-scenes videos from the American Horror Story: Freak Show in which they cast many actors born with physical deformations that made it incredibly difficult for them to be cast in many big roles. It was very cool to see actors being represented showing such a variety of bodies and abilities. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was liberating to be cast in such a popular show at all, or if it was still discouraging to be literally portrayed as a “freak” within the confines of a haunted circus. Most of the actors seemed to strongly identify with and enjoy the label of “freak”, and seemed very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a well known community of actors and performers. I think it’s very cool that Mat Fraser makes a life for himself out of something that many might find debilitating or limiting. Not only does he make a living for himself, but by performing and being seen he is acting as an activist for the many others who might feel doubtful of trying to pursue something that many would see “not fit” for someone who looks like them. In addition, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of King Richard being played by someone who actually fits the description given, even though it would make sense to, so I’m glad that Fraser has been able to carve out spaces for himself even within the sometimes painfully confining world of Shakespeare.