Theater is an outlet for imagination and a home for creativity. It offers a peek into the human soul and serves as a vehicle for expressing raw emotion.
Faculty and staff at California State University, Northridge next month will join acclaimed playwright and theater director Lauren Goldman Marshall in using theater as a way to help those with problems developing relationship skills, particularly those on the autism spectrum. The three-day workshop, “Theatre of Possibility for Autism,” is scheduled to begin the evening of Friday, Oct. 11, and run through Sunday, Oct. 13, at the university.
“This is a very positive opportunity to engage people who already have relationships with autism and those that don’t,” said CSUN theater lecturer Doug Kaback. “The arts can play a significant and central role in helping people learn to communicate on different levels. What we hope to do through theater is provide a new language, a new form of communication, for people who may trouble relating to people.”
Marshall is founder and director of Theatre of Possibility, which uses applied theater techniques to help youth on the spectrum practice relationship skills. Marshall is former co-artistic director and producing artistic director of Seattle Public Theatre (SPT). Through SPT’s acclaimed Theatre of Liberation program, she worked with youth to explore strategies for conflict resolution and empowerment. She has written award-winning plays and video scripts produced in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles and other cities. She is also co-founder of Aspire Girls, a social group for girls with Asperger’s and has a daughter with Asperger’s syndrome.
Through theater games, improvisation and role playing, participants in the Theatre of Possibility for Autism workshop will learn activities designed to highlight relationship skills, such as experience sharing, social referencing, non-literal thinking, perspective taking, flexibility, collaboration and leadership. Organizers plan breakout sessions to discuss how to adapt the techniques for different ages and functional abilities, including Down Syndrome, ADHD, sensory integration, speech and behavioral challenges and neuro-typical children.
“Issues surrounding autism are a priority for the Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing,” said Dianne Philibosian, director of the institute, which is sponsoring the event. “This workshop is part of a series of offerings we are providing to the community. We are most pleased so sponsor this program in partnership with others so that parents, teachers and practitioners will be able to apply theatrical techniques for creative expression. Individuals on the autism spectrum, and those working with them, have encountered life-changing experiences of personal growth and human connections through using Lauren Marshal’’s approach.”
CSUN’s Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing joined with the university’s acclaimed Teenage Drama Workshop, of which Kaback is director, to offer a “sensory-friendly” performance of “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” last summer. Slight adjustments were made to the production to make the theater experience accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum or people with special needs, many of whom had never seen a live theatrical performance before.
Registration for the Theatre of Possibility for Autism workshop is $125, including meals and supplies, before Sept. 20, and $150 after that date. Participants must be able to attend all three days. For more information or to register, call CSUN’s Institute for Health and Wellbeing at (818) 677-7715 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing is a collaboration of campus and community members committed to enhancing the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, organizations and communities within Cal State Northridge’s service region. Its primary mission is to foster healthy living through community and campus partnerships.