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Borne this way

New Soulpepper show was created by a group of performers who all use wheelchairs

Joshua Dvorkin stars in Borne, a theatre piece he helped create as part of a collective of performers who all use wheelchairs. 

Diversity, inclusion and equity should all be cornerstones of the queer community, but it’s no secret that gay male culture is often obsessed with unattainable ideals of physical perfection.

It’s a tricky paradigm for anyone to navigate, but what do you do if you’re a gay guy who uses a wheelchair? It’s one of the questions Joshua Dvorkin asks in Borne, a theatre piece he performs in and helped create as part of a collective of performers who all use wheelchairs.

“The gay community wants to be accepted for their differences,” Dvorkin says, “yet at the same time, they are very unaccepting of other minority groups. I came out when I was 15 years old. Before my accident, I was out and proud. But after my accident, I went back into the closet. This is partially because I have to depend on other people for my well-being, and some of those people tend to be homophobic, and I don’t want to compromise my care.”

Dvorkin is one of nine performers in Borne, directed and dramaturged by celebrated Canadian playwright Judith Thompson. Although she made a name for herself in the theatre scene for provocative naturalistic dramas like White Biting Dog and Perfect Pie, in recent years Thompson has facilitated the creation of collectively devised shows, including last year’s Rare, created by a group of performers with Down syndrome.

“The cast first got together to start workshopping the show in September 2013,” Dvorkin explains. “We basically got together and got to know each other very well. We talked about our lives and our stories, and then Judith started to mould the stories into a theatrical performance.”

While several members of the collective have artistic leanings, most are not actors. Dvorkin himself hasn’t performed since he was a drama major at Cawthra Park High School of the Performing Arts more than a decade ago, but for him, Borne means much more than a chance to get back onstage.

“I’m sort of using the play as a catalyst to talk about this and, I suppose, re-out myself into the community,” he says. “People just want to be included, and our natural state as human beings is one of social connectedness. This play shows just how important it is for people to find these connections and how our society needs to be accessible and inclusive for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation, ability or both.