Neil Marcus

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Neil Marcus

Neil Marcus, born 1954 in New York, is 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 in New York in 1954.[1] He developed generalised dystonia when he was eight years old.[6]

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 is the youngest of five children born to a secular Jewish family. Marcus's family life was full of art; his mother was a musician and his father a filmmaker. His family regularly hosted visiting artists. 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 credits 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 has 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." [7]


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.[8]

He started a street zine in the early 80's, 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.[8]

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.[9] Storm Reading challenged audiences to reevaluate conventional ideas about disability and set a standard for performing artists with disabilities, and for performance access technologies.[10] Voted Best Ensemble and Leading Actor in 1992 by DramaLogue Magazine and Critic's Choice 1992, Storm Reading had a nearly decade-long run.[11][12] Marcus received the 1994 Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound/Score/Text for his work, Art of Human Being [13]

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.'"[10]

Marcus has since participated in a range of diverse projects. Since 2008, he has been collaborating with Petra Kuppers in The Olimpias Disability Culture Research Projects,[14] and since 2010, Marcus has also worked on a number of projects with Stephen Lichty, a New York-based sculptor.[15]

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.[16] In a 2014 video with sculptor Shane Brodie, Marcus embodies the "abstract" in abstract art.

Marcus lives in Berkeley, California.[6] 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.


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. Disability Social History Project. Retrieved 1 April 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Daniels, Michael Chaco. "Fly and Soar with ~ Neil Marcus ~ Banishing Fear & Dread of People with Disabilities". Retrieved 1 April 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  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 "Neil Marcus: Fantastic Spastic. Category: Arts & Events from". The Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved 2013-04-07. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b Human Being. Vol. 1. Chicago: The City of Chicago Cultural Affairs, 2006.
  9. ^ Marcus, Neil. "Storm Reading". Play. The New Sun. Retrieved 31 March 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ a b "Bodies in Commotion: Disability and Performance." In The University of Michigan press, edited by Carrie Sandahl and Philip Auslander, 2005.
  11. ^
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Olimpias. "The Olimpias Disability Culture Research Projects". Retrieved 6 April 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ Sculpture Center. "Stephen Lichty and Neil Marcus, Study for Special Effects". Sculpture Center. Retrieved 6 April 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^