Backstage working Musical Theatre
Retreiving dropped object while working tech Photo: SDP
Emma in the rehearsal room
Working tech Photo: SDP
Since a change of regulation stopped acting from being an exempted profession, it has become impossible for anyone to talk openly regarding the disability status of any actor who is a candidate for a role.
This has led to a widespread situation in the industry, where productions who might not already have experience of working with a range of disabilities are disempowered from exploring what having a disabled team member involved on a project is like.
Having taken advice from several leading Irish casting professionals, I have chosen to include this page within my website to give an idea of what it is like to work alongside Emma and me, to allow an open dialogue which is legal under current regulations, if not in direct reference to any part for which I am under active consideration.
In live performance on 'Narnia' 2016
Photo: Footsteps N.I.
Live performance (Living History)
Photo: Irish Arms
Working living history Photo: Gail Pollock
Photocall with the Equity (Ireland) Executive 2017
Working on a self-tape
Emma is a 'mobility' and 'tasker type' assistance dog, provided by Irish Dogs for Disabled, an Assistance Dogs International (ADI)
Approved Assistance Dogs Provider.
As such, Emma's legal status is "wheelchair" and she can go into any public place and into any workplace environment.
At qualification, we had the honour of being the first assistance dog partnership working full-time in the industry anywhere in the globe. In the seven years since, three more partnerships have entered the field worldwide and we hope our professional community will continue to move from strength to strength.
Since Emma & I were paired in 2014, we have worked in a variety of environments, which has included:
* Theatre spaces - ranging in size from 25 - 1200 seats
* A variety of film and TV sets - both studio-based and location
* Sound studios
* Scheduled monuments - working living history
* Live performance venues - including museums, galleries, etc
* Outdoor venues - period specific & one-off (e.g. parks etc)
Emma received specific training to be able to work around crowds.
The largest audience numbers we have worked with to-date have been 32,000 people over a 2-day run.
About working with Emma:
Emma works with me on either verbal or signed commands, depending on the situation. She is well aware of the importance of remaining silent when in the wings and while "rolling".
Typically, Emma remains with me at all times.
However if there is an absolute need for it within the context of a film/TV piece, we are on occasion accompanied by my husband (himself an actor) who doubles as our PA and once I have got safely to my position, he has taken Emma out of the frame while we are rolling.
Emma picks up dialogue and blocking about as fast as I do (though on occasion she has been faster!) and while she may show interest in a standby or cue from the wings, when we are actively performing, though she may occasionally show interest (typically a cocked ear, or a head-tilt), she does not usually anticipate or give away plot.
Overall, if you've ever had a well-behaved five-year-old working with you, you will have a fair idea of what working with Emma is like.
Emma holds a fully up-to-date passport and can travel with me at any time, however, there is an additional step involved with booking her travel. To discuss please
Could someone on my project have allergy problems?
No. Emma is a Labradoodle and therefore a hypoallergenic breed. This was a factor in our matching - so that work would not be adversely affected.
What about cleanliness/hygiene issues?
Not a problem. Assistance dogs are allowed in all public spaces and all workplaces because there are more stringent regulations on the cleanliness and health & hygiene standards with them versus a domestic pet. All assistance dogs are thoroughly groomed, fully vaccinated, and are always up to date on prophylactic worming, tick & flea medications. Assistance dogs are also fed and cared for in a particular way so that toileting needs are as predictable as possible.
How does Emma cope with animals and workplace equipment?
Emma is happy and confident around other animals, though the usual introduction time built in before first rehearsal is often beneficial for both animals to get to know each other.
Emma has been around a variety of show environments and sets including drones, pyrotechnics, gunfire in close proximity and cannonfire.
Working with Emma is very similar to working with a small child. Controlled, gentle introduction when she is happy and confident always paves the way. To discuss logistics please
How should we credit Emma?
Emma should not be given a credit. Her legal standing is that of a wheelchair, so a credit is not appropriate.
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