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Two Rudaks

I call this photo “TWO RUDAKS” – it was taken at a cast party after a performance of my ethnographic play, I WAS NEVER ALONE at UC San Diego. In the play, the audience sits in the ethnographer’s seat, listening to life stories of six Russian people in their 30s living with disabilities. Each scene is adapted and translated from original interviews that I conducted in Russian 2012-2014. In the photo, Vladimir Rudak, who is one of the people interviewed for the script, sits in his wheelchair (right) next to Jason Dorwart, a theatre professional (now at Oberlin College) seated in his own wheelchair, who played the role of Rudak in the performance that night. Both men are flanked by their respective life partners, Laura Dorwart and Larisa Kukshieva (and everyone in the photo is smiling because someone made a joke that the photo would be of “two Rudaks, and two blondes.” I like the photo because it emphasizes what I call the relational and distributed work of ethnographic knowledge production, a facet of ethnography that the theatrical process brought to the fore. Subsequently, both Rudak and Dorwart wrote their own responses to the theatrical process, extending the experience into their own advocacy practices. Rudak, in an article in a Russian regional newspaper describes the play and uses the experience to advocate for disability advocacy at home. Dorwart, in an article for TheatreForum, described the play as a way to call for an increased focus on the life experiences of people with disabilities in contemporary theatre, which he argues is largely lacking. 


Participant: Cassandra HARTBLAY
Russian Studies Program & Dept. of Anthropology | Yale University
Presentation, "No Pity: The Ethnographer Was Never Alone"