Multi-talented performer profiled in Arts for All
20 March 2014
By Ben Jones
Dance, drama, music … Multi-talented performer Duncan Armstrong is one of seven profiles in the second edition of Arts for All: increasing access to the arts for disabled people, to be published by Arts Access Aotearoa in April. In fact, Duncan features with dancer Sumara Fraser on the front-cover photo.
“I’m the drummer in a rock band,” says Duncan in his profile. “I love to go to gigs and get on the dance floor. I’m also a dancer with Wellington Integrated Dance and Touch Compass Youth. I love to act, especially on the screen, and I was in the first season of Nothing Trivial.”
An advocate for disabled artists
Duncan, 25, has Down syndrome, lives in Wellington and was the recipient of Arts Access Aotearoa’s Big ‘A’ Winton and Margaret Bear Young Artist Award in 2010. In his profile, he says: “It’s important to me to see people with disabilities on stage and screen because we are part of the world. I think characters who have disabilities should be played by actors who have the disability.”
Duncan also talks about the difficulties of getting professional development training for disabled artists.
“As an artist, the hardest thing is getting training if you have a disability. I was lucky enough to study music at Whitireia School of Music. For drama and dance, I do workshops whenever I can find them. I love to work with Touch Compass and with Philip Channells in Australia. In 2012, I went to a filmmaking workshop at the Other Film Festival in Melbourne. I hope to go again this year.
“I’ve done some performance workshops that were just for people with disabilities but I think it’s much better to have a mix because everyone learns a lot more.”
Acting on stage and screen
Duncan’s latest role is in a play called Wake up Tomorrow, a collaboration between Everybody Cool Lives Here, Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School and Active, IDEA Services’ vocational arm for young learning disabled people. The play runs from 26 to 29 March at Toi Whakaari.
The play explores a young man’s journey in eight vignettes that occur during a long-haul flight. Each vignette corresponds to an in-flight ritual such as eating or listening to music.
Duncan played the role of Robert during the first season of the television series Nothing Trivial in 2011. “I loved learning my lines and being part of the team, and working with actors I have watched on TV. Acting on TV isn’t glamorous but I like it because we all work together.
“Acting is fun and I like meeting new friends.”
Duncan started performing in primary school plays, and then did music, drama and kapa haka at Onslow College. After leaving school he completed a Certificate in Foundation Music at the Whitireia School of Music in 2008.
When he’s not acting Duncan sometimes writes songs. “I write songs about my life. When I feel angry or sad I just do a song. It helps me let my feelings out. You never know. Someone else might have the same feelings.”
Duncan recently retired from the Wellington City Youth Council, where he had a seat for five years, and is an advocate for disabled youth.
In a 2011 interview on Close Up, a TV One current events show, Duncan was asked, “Is there an actor you want to follow in the footsteps of?”
He replied: “No, don’t follow them. Just be yourself.”