Coined by playwright Kaite O’Reilly, “cripping up” refers to the act of a non-disabled/ able-bodied person acting like they have a disability when they do not. In regards to casting, this often takes the form of non-disabled actors playing characters with physical disabilities (e.g. Kevin McHale playing Artie in the television show Glee), or non-disabled actors playing characters with neurological disabilities (such as Daniel Day-Lewis playing a character with cerebral palsy in the film My Left Foot). The use of this term, as well as the word “cripface,” has been challenged as some scholars and activists suggest that this practice is not comparable to that of “blackface” or “blacking up.” Disability activist and filmmaker Dominick Evans asserts that the practice of blackface is rooted in the intentional mockery of Black people, whereas cripface is rarely done with the intention of harm to the disabled community, suggesting the use of the term “disabled mimicry” instead. For more, please see Brown, Bruno, Drake, Sandahl.

Sources and Further Reading:

Brown, Lydia X.Z. “Practicing Disability Justice, Honoring Wholeness Onstage.” American Theatre, 26 Mar. 2021, www.americantheatre.org/2021/03/26/practicing-disability-justice-honoring-wholeness-onstage/.

Bruno, Christine. “Casting Disabled Actors.” Casting a Movement : The Welcome Table Initiative, edited by Claire Syler and Daniel Banks, Routledge, 2019, pp. 85-87., doi.org/10.4324/9780429488221.

@dominickevans (Dominick Evans). “The fact that people are no longer saying cripface….” Twitter, 26 Mar. 2021, twitter.com/dominickevans/status/1375623173719400448.

Drake, Judith. “My Left Foot: The Cripping Up Debate.” National Theatre of Scotland, 5 Apr. 2019, www.nationaltheatrescotland.com/latest/my-left-foot-the-cripping-up-debate-by-judith-drake.

Komporály, Jozefina. “‘Cripping up is the Twenty-First Century’s Answer to Blacking Up’: Conversation with Kaite O’Reilly on Theatre, Feminism and Disability.” Gender Forum, no. 12, 2005, pp. 61-67, www.genderforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/200512_IlluminatingGenderI.pdf.

Mercer, David. “My Left Foot Director Backs Calls for Actors to Stop ‘Cripping Up’ and Would Cast Disabled Actor in Daniel Day-Lewis’ Role if Film was Made Today.” Sky News, 20 June 2021, www.news.sky.com/story/my-left-foot-director-i-would-cast-disabled-actor-in-daniel-day-lewis-role-if-film-was-made-today-12336232.

Sandahl, Carrie. “The Difference Ability Makes.” Casting a Movement : The Welcome Table Initiative, edited by Claire Syler and Daniel Banks, Routledge, 2019, pp. 88-89, doi.org/10.4324/9780429488221.

Smith, SE. “No Glee for Disabled People.” The Guardian, 19 Aug. 2010, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/aug/19/no-glee-for-disabled-people.