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Neil Marcus

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Neil Marcus
Born(1954-01-03)January 3, 1954
DiedNovember 17, 2021(2021-11-17) (aged 67)
Cause of deathDystonia

Neil Marcus (January 3, 1954 – November 17, 2021) was an actor and playwright active in the development of disability culture,[1][2][3][4] who has reshaped ways of thinking about disability.[5]

Early life[edit]

Marcus was born on January 3, 1954, in White Plains, New York.[6][1] He developed generalised dystonia when he was eight years old.[7]

According to Carrie Sandhal's entry in the Encyclopedia of American Disability History, "Marcus was born on January 3, 1954, in White Plains, New York, but spent his childhood in Ojai, California. He was the youngest of five children. His mother was an actress, the first person on television and a storyteller on radio, and his father handled public relations for CBS and Polaroid, and was an avid photographer. Marcus was an active child who loved the outdoors and physical activity, qualities that would continue even after the age of eight, when his dystonia manifested itself. His onset of dystonia was painful and disorienting, as diagnosis was elusive and a cure impossible. Marcus struggled with depression throughout his adolescence and began writing in his journal, chronicling his frustrations and joys as a disabled person. He credited his experiences in co-counseling, which he began at age 14, with pulling him out of his depression and spawning his performance aesthetic. Co-counseling involves peer-to-peer, confidential counseling that helps the participants discover themselves and deal with their emotions. Marcus had discussed his relationship with audiences as a form of co-counseling in which he and they share experiences on a journey of discovering self and other."[8]


His early career began when Marcus left for college in Washington State, he began to write. Later moving to Berkeley to continue his studies, he became active in the Disability Rights Movement.[9]

He started a street zine in the early 1980s, Special Effects, as a form to express what he experienced and learned through his participation in the disabled and independent living movement. Special Effects was distributed in a street zine fashion, as well as by mailing list.[9]

Marcus curated interventions with a cut, copy and paste methodology which encompassed the art, culture, and humor into the political discourse of disability.

Storm Reading, his play in collaboration with Rod Lathim, Roger Marcus and Access Theater, has been shown on television and performed at the Kennedy Center, as well as being featured on NPR and NBC's Today Show.[10] Storm Reading challenged audiences to reevaluate conventional ideas about disability and set a standard for performing artists with disabilities, and for performance access technologies.[11] Voted Best Ensemble and Leading Actor in 1992 by DramaLogue Magazine and Critic's Choice 1992, Storm Reading had a nearly decade-long run.[12][13] Marcus received the 1994 Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound/Score/Text for his work, Art of Human Being [14]

Brenda Jo Brueggemann shares in an anthology about disability and performance, how she introduces to students to her class: " I show a recorded performance of Storm Reading, especially the opening clip. I have used it to open courses on representations of disability in language, language in literature and culture. I use it first because Marcus begins with the central issue for disabled people: Their position in relation to being 'human.'"[11]

Marcus participated in a range of diverse projects. Since 2008, he had been collaborating with Petra Kuppers in The Olimpias Disability Culture Research Projects,[15] and since 2010, Marcus had also worked on a number of projects with Stephen Lichty, a New York-based sculptor.[16]

Marcus's poem Disabled Country introduces the Smithsonian's permanent web exhibition EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America.

In 2011, Marcus choreographed a videodance with Richard Chen See, a Paul Taylor dancer.[17] In a 2014 video with sculptor Shane Brodie, Marcus embodies the "abstract" in abstract art.

Marcus lived in Berkeley, California.[7] His papers have been archived by the Bancroft library of the University of California at Berkeley as part of the Artists with Disabilities Oral History Project.

He died on November 17, 2021, in Berkeley, California.[6]


Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Television[edit]

  • Marcus, Neil. Storm Reading.
  • Ongoing collaboration with Petra Kuppers for The Olimpias: Performance Research Projects
  • "Of Past Regret and Future Fear". ER. 1998. NBC.[1]


The Olimpias Project[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chadwick, Patricia. "Neil Marcus". Disability Social History Project. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  2. ^ Cheu, Johnson (2005). "Performing Disability, Problematizing Cure". In: Bodies in Commotion: Disability and Performance. Carrie Sandahl and Philip Auslander (eds). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. pp. 135–146. ISBN 0472098918.
  3. ^ Access Living. "Neil Marcus". Access Living, Chicago. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  4. ^ Daniels, Michael Chaco. "Fly and Soar with ~ Neil Marcus ~ Banishing Fear & Dread of People with Disabilities". Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  5. ^ Kuppers, Petra (2011). Disability Culture and Community Performance. London, UK: Palgrave. pp. Introduction. ISBN 9781137319920. Archived from the original on 2012-10-10. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
  6. ^ a b Williams, Annabelle (2021-12-28). "Neil Marcus, Whose Art Illuminated Disability, Dies at 67". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-12-29.
  7. ^ a b "Neil Marcus: Fantastic Spastic. Category: Arts & Events from". The Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  8. ^ Sandahl, Carrie. "Marcus, Neil (1954-) Artist and Performer." Encyclopedia of American Disability History. Ed. Susan Burch. New York: Facts on File, 2009. 592-593. Facts on File Library of American History. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.
  9. ^ a b Human Being. Vol. 1. Chicago: The City of Chicago Cultural Affairs, 2006.
  10. ^ Marcus, Neil. "Storm Reading". Play. The New Sun. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
  11. ^ a b "Bodies in Commotion: Disability and Performance." In The University of Michigan press, edited by Carrie Sandahl and Philip Auslander, 2005.
  12. ^ "Famous (And not-so-famous) People with Disabilities - Neil Marcus".
  13. ^ Yergeau, Melanie, Elizabeth Brewer, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, and Nicholas Hetrick. "Biographies of Key Contributors in the Field." Arts and Humanities. Ed. Gary L. Albrecht. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012. 123-75. SAGE knowledge. Web. Disability Key Issues and Future Directions. 14 Sept. 2014.
  14. ^ "Music / Sound / Text - Isadora Duncan Dance Awards". Archived from the original on April 7, 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  15. ^ Olimpias. "The Olimpias Disability Culture Research Projects". Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  16. ^ Sculpture Center. "Stephen Lichty and Neil Marcus, Study for Special Effects". Sculpture Center. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  17. ^ "RCH see neil".