I first met Kurt Wilkinson in January of this year (2023) when he came up from San Antonio for The Art Spark Tx Radio Hour on KOOP Radio. After that meeting Celia and I were clear we wanted him as a member of the cast for the first staged reading of our play “Waiting for the Bus” by James Burnside. I had the honor of reading with him as one of the three characters that make up the chorus. His Marx Brother characterization and perfect comedy timing definitely established the chorus as moments of light relief in the darkness of the true horror of the historical reality of disability history.
I’m so happy to introduce Kurt to you as our March Artist of the Month. I wanted to know more about this “…really funny and talented actor…”. Here are the answers to my questions in his own words.
My name is Kurt Wilkinson. I was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta and I use a wheelchair. I graduated from Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi in 2019, with a BA in Theatre with an emphasis in Acting and Directing and a BA in Media Arts with an
emphasis in Media Studies. I’ve worked as a professional actor in San Antonio for three years. I also currently work at Morgan’s Wonderland, the only theme park in the world made for people with disabilities, as a leader in their entertainment department, and I volunteer at The Overtime Theater as their Promotions Manager.
What does inclusion mean to you?
To me inclusion should go beyond simply being kind to others and ticking a few diversity checkboxes. To make a space inclusive you have to curate a place where everybody is comfortable in their own identities. I’ve found in my years of speaking up for myself, as a disabled artist, that making a space that is inclusive to individuals with disabilities is most difficult.
Most ableism, unlike racism, homophobia, or sexism, doesn’t come from a place of malice. For people with disabilities being kind to us is not enough. You have to go the extra mile of creating accessible spaces, which often involves a lot of money. It’s possible to be too kind to people with disabilities where going way out of the way to try to make someone with disabilities comfortable actually makes us uncomfortable. I’ve had conversations with people where they have admitted that they don’t want to hire somebody if they can’t give the best conditions to them while they’re working. It made me think… has somebody not hired me because they thought they couldn’t give me the best experience as an employee because of my disability, and did they think that was a kindness?
What’s been the most memorable moment of your life so far?
This last December I was able to be in a one-man version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and it is the achievement I’m most proud of in my acting career. I was able to captivate an audience for an hour and fifteen minutes by myself. Thanks to that show I got recognition both inside and outside San Antonio. This recognition has helped tremendously in my continuing advocacy and allowed me to start helping theaters across San Antonio become more inclusive to actors with disabilities.
What would be your dream role?
To me personally I’m not the kind of person to obsess over ancient scripts or popular musicals and dream of a specific role to play. I’m interested in new stories so my dream role is probably one that hasn’t been written yet. I’d eventually like to be in a TV series where I can play a disabled character going through everyday life.
What are you looking forward to in the future – personally and professionally?
I’m glad that I’m still very young so my career has so much time to grow. I have no clue what my life will be like 5 years from now and while that is of course scary it’s also exciting! I’ve surpassed my expectations with how well my acting career has gone. I thought I’d be lucky to be in two shows a year after I graduate, but I keep jumping from one show to the next with barely any breaks!
I would like to have a career with a more stable income to do alongside acting though, so I hopefully can find something like that soon so I can move out of my parents’ house. On a completely unrelated note, if anyone reading this article knows of a job that involves public speaking, disability advocacy, social media, or entertainment in central Texas that is 9-5, pays a living wage, and is hiring…That is of great interest to me right now and please let me know!
If you could have dinner with any 3 people dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Somebody that would give me a house, somebody that would give me a f**k ton of money, and somebody that would give me health insurance.
How do you want to be remembered?
I would like to make progress on advocacy for actors with disabilities so that future disabled performers can have an easier time than me, and it would be cool to be recognized for that. However, I do mostly want to be remembered for my talent. Right now for film projects especially I’m cast because of my disability and I’d like to go beyond that. In order to survive as a disabled performer, I am forced to be leagues better than all of the able-bodied people who audition for a production. The side effect of this is that I’ve become a pretty good actor. So, I’d like to be known as the really funny and talented actor that is in a wheelchair and did some advocacy instead of the disabled advocate that is an actor.
In my next theatrical project, I will be playing Max in The Public Theatre of San Antonio’s production of The Pajama Game. It opens March 31st and runs until April 23rd. This will be the first time I’ve been on The Public Theatre’s stage, and I think I will be the first performer in a wheelchair that has ever been on that stage. I’m very excited to continue to break barriers for diversity on stage, and I hope people come and enjoy my performance.
1 thought on “March 2023 Artist of the Month Kurt Wilkinson”
We know you will achieve your dreams Kurt because you are talented and hard working. It was a pleasure seeing you in action both in A Christmas Carol and Waiting for the Bus. Onward! Celia Hughes