Pre-Education: The Lessons of the Elephant

Dear Community,

In this, the final edition of the pre-conference Pre-Education posts, we bring you a bunch of adorable elephants! 

Besides being absolutely heartwarming and “awwww”- inducing, what can we learn from these elephants as we approach our work at the conference this weekend?  One thing that is evident is the support that elephants give one another.  In this video, we see a young calf who falls down in the middle of a road.  Not only is the sweet little elephant supported by an entire herd, but they remain with the baby, offering gentle scaffolding and support, until he/she is able to walk on with the group.

Link: http://indiasendangered.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/ele.jpg

Often when we do the work of examining our societal power dynamics and holding a magnifying glass to our privilege, diversity, and aversion or attraction to difference, the process can be exhausting, and it can feel insurmountable.  We will fall down time and time again as we explore the borders and shadows of our comfort zones.  We might get frustrated, annoyed, tired, and feel like giving up.

Link: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/10/02/1412282334470_wps_13_Woburn_Safari_Park_s_new_.jpg

We hope that through our work at the conference this weekend, we can take inspiration from these beautiful creatures, and support one another, even, and perhaps especially in moments of struggle and weakness. It is only through holding one another up, that we will be able to slowly make our way across the road, and be able to see the bigger picture.

Link: http://i.imgur.com/jSNqOIp.gif

Lovingly,
the Pre-Education Committee

#NADTA2015 Social Media: Keeping the Conversation Going

Hello dear community!

The conference is here!  Can you believe it?  Right now you might already be in White Plains, settling into your hotel rooms and getting ready for a big pre-conference kick off tomorrow, or you might be en route to join us… either way, we can’t wait to see you.

This year we look forward to continuing the explorations of attraction and aversion to difference, diversity, and social justice BOTH in person, and via social media!

As you dive into the work, and reunite with friends and drama therapy family from around the world, make sure to tag your posts to add them to the social media conversation!  Here are ways you can participate:

  • Add the hashtag #NADTA2015 to your posts on any social media platform (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
  • Tag us directly on your favorite social media platform!
    • Facebook: North American Drama Therapy Association
    • Instagram: @NADTA.dramatherapy
    • Twitter: @Drama_Therapy
  • Post a comment to the NADTA Facebook page!
  • Look for the #NADTA2015 Selfie Station at the conference, which will be located on the lower level of the hotel!  Take as many photos as you want with our provided props, and your nearest drama therapy friend, and share them!

Throughout the weekend, your conference committee will be re-posting, re-gramming, and sharing your pictures, posts, and updates so we can stay connected and share our experiences.

Here are some links for the NADTA, and #NADTA2015 on social media!:
Facebook: http://bit.ly/NADTAFB
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drama_Therapy
Instagram: https://instagram.com/nadta.dramatherapy/
Blog: https://nadtaconference.wordpress.com
Web: http://www.nadta.org

See you soon!

Warmly,

Rachel Lee Soon
#NADTA2015 Social Media Chair

Daniela Bustamante & Lizzie McAdam
Conference Co-Chairs

Christine Mayor
Conference Program Chair

Presenter Spotlight: Keynote Speaker Zeina Daccache

Dear Community,

In this final presenter spotlight, we bring you a brief interview with our #NADTA2015 Conference keynote speaker Zeina Daccache!  In this piece, she shares her perspective on social justice work.  We look forward to seeing you all at the conference, where we can hear much more from Zeina at her keynote at the conference on Saturday, October 17th, from 12:30pm-1:30pm!  See you in White Plains!


What does social justice mean to you?
What a wide term with so many definitions. Mine would be: Each human being (whether living on a beach or in a prison) has rights, and many people on this earth do not have these rights.  Social justice work refers to these endeavors that happen worldwide claiming space and working to obtain these rights for all.

What excites you about your work?
Working with people who have something in their guts that they need to express. I want the work to be genuine—to create genuine encounters, sessions, performances, encounters with the audience, and ideally bring about a genuine change of policy. I believe that policy change cannot happen indirectly; the marginalized population—having something in their guts but using the tools offered, in our case theatre and drama therapy—can make a better argument than anyone else and change the minds of policy makers.

What are your greatest challenges in doing social justice work?
Dealing with the institutions around the work. Most of the time such institutions (government, policy makers, etc.) have no real interest in social justice…one hand cannot clap by itself so getting them on board is 99% of any social justice project.

Why do you think drama therapists should pay attention to issues of power and privilege?
Most of our clients, whether in a clinic or any other setting, suffer from issues relating to power, privilege, corruption, non-transparency, prejudice, etc. If we do not pay attention to the global context in which our work occurs, we are missing half of the work that needs to be done.

In thinking about the work our community needs to do, what is one area for growth for our community when engaging with issues of power, privilege and oppression?
That we will become broader in our approach… not limited. In our community, we choose to be therapists, but for me there is a wider horizon if we choose to be the therapist and add to that our engagement with issues of power, privilege and oppression. The tools of drama therapy are more powerful than we know, and we must use these tools to engage in meaningful change.

Who are your role models (both within and outside of the drama therapy community) in doing this work?
Genuine people like the great theatre master Philippe Gaulier (though he does no social justice work directly but he encourages people to be themselves and know that they have the right to be themselves against all odds), as well as Jesus and other spiritual leaders who didn’t stop at the first NO received, but instead kept going by truly believing that human beings are precious souls, not to be wasted.

What advice would you give to a new drama therapist just starting out who is interested in social justice work?
My advice would be to believe in yourself and believe in the other… even if it s a 1% belief that good exists.


zeina-daccache

About Zeina Daccache:

A recipient of many awards for her distinguished contributions to the field of social initiatives and services, Zeina has been implementing drama therapy processes in Lebanon and the Middle East since 2006. She is the founder and Executive Director of Catharsis – Lebanese Center for Drama Therapy, and is renowned for her film and theatre projects including Scheherazade’s Diary (2014), and her production of 12 Angry Lebanese inside Roumieh Prison.

Trailer for “Scheherzarade’s Diary”, a film by Zeina Daccache

Presenter Spotlight: Ability to Love – Andrea DeCrescenzo, Darcy Hildebidle, and Norman Fedder, PhD, RDT/BCT

In this edition of the Presenter Spotlight, we are highlighting one of our performances, “Ability to Love”, presented by Andrea DeCrescenzo, Darcy Hildebidle, and Norman Fedder, PhD, RDT/BCT.  Read about this performance, and their views on the opportunities we have as drama therapists to engage in work around privilege, power, difference, diversity, and social justice, and for more, check out their performance at the conference on Friday, October 16th!


Tell the community about your presentation/performance. What do you hope people will learn from it? 

Our presentation consists of a performance by Andrea and Norman of a play Andrea and Darcy wrote and acted in – Ability to Love – as their culminating Master’s degree project, mentored by Norman. The play explores the subject of intimate relationships in the disabled community – based on Andrea’s own experiences navigating the dating scene in an ablest world. It dramatizes her struggle (with Norman in the role of her auxiliary ego) to affirm Andrea’s “ability to love” others and – most importantly – herself: to change her personal narrative of isolation, as she hopes abled people will change theirs toward the differently abled: encouraging what they’re able to do, not dwelling on what they’re not.

Why do you think drama therapists should pay attention to issues of power and privilege?

In order to fully relate and attend to the emotional problems of our clients, we must be cognizant of the power and privilege issues that may be inherent in these problems – such as race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, class – and be sensitive to how these issues may affect the therapist/client relationship.

In thinking about the work our community needs to do, what is one area for growth when engaging with issues of power, privilege and oppression? What is one area of strength?

One area of growth needed, which is at the heart of our presentation, is that we provide greater recognition of the problems of the disabled community – for example, the injustice inherent in our male dominated dating culture of seeking only sexual gratification from females, rather than physical intimacy within a loving relationship – a culture which becomes even more oppressive when able-bodied men who feel a lack of power in their own lives take sexual advantage over disabled women.

We also need to attract more disabled people to our organization.

One area of our strength is increasing awareness of and attention to the needs of this community, such as the recognition and support we have received from NADTA in presenting our performance at the conference.

Who are your role models within the drama therapy community in doing this work?

Sally Bailey and Stephen Snow: regarding the extent and quality of their theatrical productions and creative activities with the disabled – as well as their outstanding teaching, workshops, and publications on the subject.


About the Presenters

Andrea DeCrescenzo is a theatre artist with cerebral palsy, making use of a motorized wheelchair; and Darcy Hildebidle is a visual artist who, like Andrea, has a deep commitment to enhancing the lives of people with disabilities through the arts. Andrea and Darcy recently earned their Master’s degrees in Interdisciplinary Arts, with a specialization in Drama Therapy, at Nova Southeastern University. The specialization was founded and is directed by Norman Fedder, PhD, RDT/BCT.

Pre-Education: Addressing Disability

Greetings, community!

In this Pre-Education blog post, we offer you resources to read, view, and listen to on the topic of disability.

We start with Stella Young, who was an activist and comedian. She once said, “I want to live in a world where we don’t have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our own names in the morning.  I want to live in a world where we value genuine achievement for disabled people.” In her awesome TED Talk, I’m not your inspiration thank you very much, she explains:

Life as a disabled person is actually somewhat difficult. We do overcome some things. But the things that we’re overcoming are not the things that you think they are. They are not things to do with our bodies. I use the term “disabled people” quite deliberately, because I subscribe to what’s called the social model of disability, which tells us that we are more disabled by the society that we live in than by our bodies and our diagnoses.

Check out the full TedTalk to hear more of Stella Young’s brilliance.


The Social Model of Disability

Like so much of what makes up who we are, the label of “disabled” is in large part a social construction.  So, what is the social model of disability? Take a look at this short youtube video, which defines the social model of disability and outlines its importance in the lives of those interviewed.

Challenging Misconceptions of Disability

In her TED Talk, My 12 pairs of legs, Aimee Mullins speaks to challenging the assumption that she is limited because she has multiple legs. As an athlete, actress, and fashion model she continues to see her many legs as the opportunity for unlimited possibilities. In talking to a group of children she allowed them to look, touch and explore her many prosthetic legs and she notes, “…just like that, I went from being a woman that these kids would have been trained to see as “disabled” to somebody that had potential that their bodies didn’t have yet. Somebody that might even be super-abled.” Check out the full TED Talk below to hear more.

Athlete and model, Kanya Seeser speaks of her body confidence in this Huffington Post article and video. She was born without legs and says, “I’m different and that is sexy. I don’t need legs to feel sexy.” She is also known for her mantra, “No legs no limits.”  Check out an article about her here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/athlete-and-model-born-without-legs-proves-she-wont-be-limited-by-her-disability_560aa841e4b0dd85030929a1

In this compelling TED Talk, Mainstreaming Disability, Dylan Alcott challenges the notion that having a disability is “the worst thing” that can happen to someone.

Ableism

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Ableism as “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities.”

Forms of Ableism:
http://mic.com/articles/121653/6-forms-of-ableism-we-need-to-retire-immediately

Perpetuating Ableism through language and other missteps:
http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/how-feminism-perpetuates-ableism/

Invisible Disabilities

Like many of our intersecting identities, not all “disabilities” are ones that we can see.  The Invisible Disabilities Association defines invisible disabilities as follows:

The term invisible disabilities refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments.  These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.


They go on to note that a person with visible impairments can also have invisible disabilities that affect the way they live in and experience the world, and that people with invisible disabilities are often judged as able because of the way they look.  Ultimately, the IDA challenges us to “listen with our ears, instead of judging with our eyes”, and offers many resources about how we can do just that.

What is “normal” anyway?

Rosie King offers a thoughtful, witty piece that encourages listeners to rethink the need/desire for normalcy. In her TED Talk, How autism freed me to be myself, she says:

…if you think about it, what is normal? What does it mean? Imagine if that was the best compliment you ever received. ‘Wow, you are really normal.’ But compliments are, ‘you are extraordinary’ or ‘you step outside the box.’ It’s ‘you’re amazing.’ So if people want to be these things, why are so many people striving to be normal? Why are people pouring their brilliant individual light into a mold? People are so afraid of variety that they try and force everyone, even people who don’t want to or can’t, to become normal.

The Pre-Education Committee will be hosting a workshop at the 2015 NADTA Conference Pre-Conference on Thursday October 15th. Join us from 1:30pm-4:30pm for continued discussions regarding social justice and attraction and aversion to difference.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Warmly,
The Pre-Education Committee

Less Than a Week Away: Welcome to White Plains!

We are less than a week away from the conference and are so excited to welcome everyone to White Plains. This year, thanks to the #Powerof10 online fundraiser, we are pleased to provide multiple self care options during the conference:

  • Tote bags filled with surprise goodies both donated and acquired through fundraising.
  • Complimentary coffee and tea breaks will be offered on both Friday morning and Saturday afternoon during the conference.
  • Free 15-minute massages will be available on a first come, first serve basis on Saturday on the lower level of the hotel. Keep an eye out for signs with more info.
  • A selfie station will also be located on the lower level–grab a friend, dress up, and strike a pose! (And don’t forget to use #NADTA2015 when posting online!)

There will be a more detailed list to peruse in your hospitality packet, but for a sneak peek at some of the great places to eat, drink, and spend time in White Plains, take a look at the list below. For those of you new to the community, don’t forget to check out the Newcomer Dinner at the Hudson Grille on Thursday, October 15th at 5pm.

On behalf of the Hospitality Committee, we look forward to welcoming you all to the 2015 NADTA Conference in White Plains.

Warmly,
Antonietta Delli Carpini and Erinn Webb


Hospitality Package Sneak Peek!

Eating & Drinking

  • Whole Foods Market 110 Bloomingdale Rd, White Plains, NY 10605 (0.2 miles from the Crowne Plaza) 5 minute walk from the hotel.

    Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 12.38.27 PM

  • The Hudson Grille, 165 Mamaroneck Ave. (0.4 miles from the Crowne Plaza) 7 minute walk from the hotel. For upscale modern American cuisine, with full entrees. Everything made fresh, lots of options. Open  Thurs./Fri./Sat. 11:30am -11:00pm, Sun. 11:30am – 9:00pm. http://www.hudsongrilleny.com  (914) 997-2000
    Also the site of our newcomer’s dinner on Thursday at 5:00!

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 12.38.15 PM


Ways to Relax and Enjoy Your Stay

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 12.37.56 PM

  • Neuberger Museum of Art in the SUNY Purchase Campus, 735 Anderson Hill Rd, Purchase, NY 10577, (914) 251-6100 (4.5 miles from the Crowne Plaza), 10 minute drive from the hotel.  https://www.neuberger.org

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Presenter Spotlight: Michelle Farivar, MA

In this edition of the #NADTA2015 Conference Presenter Spotlight, we would like to introduce you to Michelle Farivar, MA, who identifies as an “artist-scholar-aspiring-clinician.” Read on to hear her talk about her own narrative, and her dissertation work in her own words, and to learn more, you can find her at the conference presenting on Sunday, October 18th!


Born and raised in Los Angeles to Jewish Iranian refugees who, overwhelmed by the effusive sunlight and metropolitan Angeleno culture found asylum in the ultra orthodox Eastern European Jewish community, I learned the ins and outs of paradox, marginalization, and subjectivity at an early age.  The diverse cultural narratives and self-contained worlds of myth, rules, and secrets that surrounded me piqued my interest and fed my fascination with art and psychology.  Society and the communities around me told me I had to choose between the two but couldn’t let either one go. I continued my involvement in expressive arts and performance and when I began my doctoral studies in clinical psychology I found that both journeys were inextricably tied to one another in their powers to heal.

When my dissertation led me to study the intricacies of trauma and its neurobiological underpinnings I was exhilarated to find the scientific bases in the literature for what I already felt in my body to be true.  Theatrical and dramatic engagement- something that for one reason or another (another topic of discussion) has been disavowed to a large degree by our society- has the capacity to profoundly heal and transcend traumas on a neurobiological and physiological level. Despite the evidence I came across in the literature, I was surprised to find skepticism in response to my passionate pursuit of the science behind these nontraditional methods and even resistance to my identity as an artist-scholar-aspiring clinician.

It seems that artists are the marginalized ‘Other’ in the scientific world.

I decided to make it my goal for this presentation to bring some awareness to the scientific underpinnings that make this work crucial and urgent in hopes to urge the drama therapy community to come together and demand the limelight in the scientific community.  We need the limelight not only because the work we do is good but because it is scientifically supported and therefore warrants the attention of the community at large.  There are clients who suffer, who would be much more efficiently and sensitively treated with these techniques and yet they sit in talk therapy, frustrated and discouraged by the their inability to feel better, without the knowledge that there is something out there for them.

In demanding our space in the field of healing, I hope we can come together to facilitate this new paradigm shift that is already taking place, wherein art and science embrace each other instead of being dualistically estranged.

This is what social justice means to me: to face the truth with courage, to acknowledge the truth with compassion, to accept the responsibility that comes with privilege and to integrate the past into a mobilized life-impulse towards creativity and advancement towards complexity. We need to pay attention to power and privilege not only in how they affect our clients, but in how they affect creative professionals in the field of healing.

I am looking forward to learn from and be inspired by the presenters and the exciting workshops they have prepared for this year’s conference, which will be my first.  Thank you for having me.

MichelleFarivar5
Michelle Farivar

Presenter Spotlight: Kath Fathers, MA, MT-BC, LCAT

Today we present a spotlight on Kath Fathers, MA, MT-BC, LCAT, a music therapist who is presenting at the #NADTA2015 conference on Saturday, October 17th.  She shares below her perspective on social justice, and how drama therapy and music therapy can find overlaps in this work.  Read below, and explore more with her at the conference!



Tell the community about your presentation/performance/workshop. What do you hope people will learn from your presentation/performance/workshop? Why this work now?

I have recently moved over from the UK, where music therapy in the UK and Europe has a greater emphasis on psychodynamic approaches and is also in a position where they are questioning the role of music therapy amongst a growing number of music in health disciplines, ranging from ‘music medicine’ through to ‘community music’.  Community Music Therapy is a social movement in Europe that provides discourse and research in music as connector in a broader, more ecological approach – beyond the defined therapeutic space. It also takes an activist position, which is not evident in the general discourse of music therapy in the US.

My aim is to provide some background to music therapy approaches and bring some case study material as a way to address some of the potential areas of shared interest between our disciplines. I am interested in theories around performance versus process and we will together consider ways to hold these two positions in tension to create space for social change.

I hope there will be discussion along with some participation through songs. I am interested in exploring frameworks that offer inclusive opportunities and the song is a great example of what we will pull apart and perhaps reassemble as something new for your toolkit. Participants will be given time to reflect on their own practice and review/refresh ways to challenge the inherent power structures within the therapeutic space and therefore offer more opportunities for authentic collaboration.

Why do you think drama therapists should pay attention to issues of power and privilege?

The positions of power and privilege are often inherited, sometimes earned and sometimes assumed, e.g. ethnicity and heritage offer privilege; the role of therapist carries power; both bully and victim can respond to subconscious cues to defend their ‘rights.’ As therapists we have a responsibility to be aware of how our contribution is affected by these issues; as creative arts therapists we have the opportunity to subvert and level relationships through shared, participatory experiences that can change and shape both client and therapist.

What do YOU hope to learn by attending this conference?

I am really looking forward to joining in dialogue with a different arts therapy and learning from the broader therapeutic community in my recently adopted cultural context of CNY. Particularly in a state that offers us an ‘umbrella’ licensure in Creative arts therapies (the New York State License in Creative Arts Therapies (LCAT), I feel that we can make the most of this shared licensing in looking to develop collaborative opportunities and stretch our thinking in each discipline. Your shared language highlights an occupation of the political space for social justice issues, which I am excited to engage with and which I feel is missing from the dialogue within music therapy at this time.


About the Presenter

I am committed to an inclusive approach in all forms of participatory practice. My homeland is Wales, UK, where there are issues of language and historical oppression, along with a keen appreciation of culture resulting from surviving as a small nation. This has shaped my thinking, which as a musician and a therapist has helped inform my practice and produced a passion for the smallest voice to be heard, valued and amplified. My increasing conviction in the ability of music to bring social change is born from the belief that many small voices can together bring sustainable change for good.

Pre-Education: Cultural Appropriation – What’s Yours is Mine?

In this edition of the Pre-Education blog, we are going to give you some resources to check out around the topic of cultural appropriation.

This video, created by the super awesome Marina Watanabe, is a great introduction to concepts important to thinking critically about cultural appropriation.  Notably, she covers the definition of culture (starting at the 0:26 mark), the myth of “America the Melting Pot” (starting at the 1:53 mark), and the differences between “cultural exchange” and “cultural appropriation” (starting at the 2:46 mark).

**Pro-tip: if you click the “More” button at the bottom of the video, you can also see a live-scrolling transcript of what she’s saying in the video, to read through the concepts, as well as jump to different sections!**

Marina references sociologist Nicki Lisa Cole several times in her video, so here is an article written by Cole that covers many of these topics as well:  http://sociology.about.com/od/Ask-a-Sociologist/fl/Cultural-Appropriation.htm

Cole writes about the difference between assimilation and appropriation as follows:

“Social institutions, like media, education, politics, the judicial system and the police, and peer groups and community leaders incentivize assimilation into the dominant culture by punishing and ostracizing those who do not assimilate. The adoption of the dominant culture by racially and ethnically marginalized groups is forced and required, in the sense that it is necessary for inclusion in society, and in some cases historically and today, physically forced.  Cultural appropriation, by contrast, is not required or forced. It is a choice, and as such, it is an expression of privilege. While people of color are forced to adopt mainstream white culture, white people can sample at the buffet of other cultures at their leisure, picking and choosing what they wish to consume.”

What’s really important here is to consider, as Marina also highlights in her video (starting at the 3:34 mark), are the power structures at play, and whether the culture you are borrowing from is a dominant culture or a subordinated culture.

Like Watanabe, Nicki Lisa Cole also challenges us to ask questions when considering our role in cultural exchange or cultural appropriation:

  • What culture does this style reference, and what is my relation to that culture?
  • Why am I wearing it?
  • Who made the product, and who’s selling it?
  • How accurate/respectful is it to the source?

Marina Watanabe also references the work of Richard A. Rogers, specifically a paper entitled “From Cultural Exchange to Transculturation”.  If you are able, we encourage you to check out this piece as well!  Link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2885.2006.00277.x/abstract

As always, we hope this post provides you with some new information to continue critically examining the systems within which we operate, as well as our professional and personal practices.  Let us know what you think in the comments below!

The Pre-Education Committee is looking forward to hosting a workshop during the pre-conference to continue these conversations, and we hope you will join us!  When you register for the conference, sign up to spend some time with us on Thursday, October 15th, from 1:30pm-4:30pm.  We can’t wait to see you!

Warmly,
the Pre-Education Committee

Presentation Spotlight: Rule Breaking: Disability as Performance

The #NADTA2015 conference will be featuring an ensemble workshop presented by the cast/creators/researchers of the latest endeavor of NYU’s “As Performance” Series. The presenters of “Rule Breaking: Disability as Performance” have offered the following thoughts and perspectives on their play and the research process that accompanied its development and we encourage you to read through before attending their presentation on Saturday, October 17!

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 6.47.06 PM

Inspired by Andrew Solomon’s book Far from the Tree, this participatory action research/performance project is part of the NYU Drama Therapy Program’s As Performance series and will be the featured performance of the series in November 2015 at the Provincetown Playhouse.

Our Director Nick Brunner, RDT writes: “Rule Breaking is a play about a community of people coming together.  People that know each other, that care for each other, that fear for each other. The play is about the relationship between individuals with disabilities and their caretakers; about mothers and sons, brothers and sisters, friends and companions; about finding community; about sharing the struggles, pains, and joys of a life with disability; and about learning to break the rules a little bit.”

Rule Breaking is also performative research and applies Nisha Sajnani’s Living Inquiry as our methodology in our process. All participants function as co-researchers/collaborators. Participants entered the research in dyadic relationship (parent/child, sibling/sibling, direct support staff/consumer). Using drama therapeutic and applied theater processes including free-associative improvisation, role reversal, working with text, monologue and scene writing, use of actual developmental evaluations, storytelling and self-reflection, participants have distilled experiences of encounter between each other which have now been scripted by playwright Alec Silberblatt into a full length play.

Collaborator Maria Hodermarska, RDT-BCT writes: “There is a movement to disassemble hegemonic thinking (perennial in the academy) but this time through relationship. We are collaborating together from the simple yet profound and eternal innovation that comes through relationship. In our project, everyone is a co-researcher. It’s a duo-ethnography process. We eschewing the “doer/done to” binaries. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the ADA in which we are seeing a shift from advocacy for someone with a disability to activism with someone with a disability. “How shall I act?” Clinicians, educators, researchers must ask this question all the time. When we are working alongside someone with a disability not for them or towards them, we are required to think differently about relationship and its meaning. It changes how we think, how we act, and how we employ our skills and our theories in our praxis. It requires us to enter into the margins where people with disabilities often are relegated and create/do our work in those spaces.”

Emerging themes in the research process:
Our process is an interrogation of disability theory that, in part, examines the power and privilege of one group over another. In our research, we have begun to track and code when a person with a disability is aware that their personal agency over body or choices is being controlled by someone else. The insights into the frequency with which this experience is perceived and named within the improvisations have led to some rich discussion and insight around this topic.

Other emerging material involves issues around gender identity, queer and disabled bodies (several of our members identify as LGBTQ and four of our members identify as people who are living with a disability). One of our members is a person with intellectual disability who is also a transgender female. She has in recent years been engaged in a legal process over gaining autonomy and decision making over her body. Her experience in transition and the resiliency that she has had to demonstrate throughout the process has also become an organizing focus in our group. As a person who legally has no agency over her own body (due to IQ below 70) this group member’s struggle for self-determination has become a rallying cry within the group.
We are discovering how building and inhabiting co-creative community has implications for the “ethic of care” in clinical and familial relationships. How do we define and create community? What are the values that under-gird it? We are creating and discussing around these questions, as well.

Drama Therapist and Theologian, Roger Grainger, writes about a healing theater. His ideas are another source of inspiration for this project. In The Open Space he wrote, “Human vulnerability, our own or other people’s, draws us closer to one another, just as fear keeps us apart. The gap between the two realities—one concrete, the other imagined—acts as a safeguard against fear but allows love to reach out towards the other person. Theater is always about pain: pain of breaking free from ourselves, pain of identifying with the suffering of others even if this is what we—and they—dismiss as the discomfiture of embarrassment. Theater is about the way we see ourselves: the way we value ourselves, protect ourselves, bestow ourselves. Because of these things it is also about how we discover ourselves, not merely theoretically but existentially, in and through relatedness” (p. 163).

The work has been rich and profound for everyone concerned. Our effort towards an anti-hegemonic worldview through the theater has brought each of us closer to an understanding of the impact of disability on our lives, closer to each other, and closer to the change we wish to be and to see in the world.


About the Presenters

Maria Hodermarska (Co-Principal Investigator/Collaborator) is a Licensed Creative ArtsTherapist (LCAT), a Registered Drama Therapist (RDT) Board Certified Trainer of Drama Therapy (BCT), a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) and an Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (ICADAC). Her work spans both the therapeutic and applied uses of the theater arts most often within community-based mental health programs and alcohol/substance abuse treatment programs serving un-served or under-served populations. Ms. Hodermarska has been teaching in the Graduate Program in Drama Therapy at NYU Steinhardt since 1995. She is the former Ethics Chair and Education Chair for the North American Drama Therapy Association. Ms. Hodermarska is the coordinator of creative arts therapies for Project Common Bond, an international symposium for young people who have lost a family member to an act of terror. She has is the proud recipient of two teaching awards from NYU.

Cecilia Dintino (Co-Principal Investigator/Collaborator) is a clinical psychologist and drama therapist.  Dr. Dintino is an Adjunct Instructor in the NYU Program in Drama Therapy and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.  She works as a supervising clinical psychologist for Columbia University’s Specialty Clinics, where she utilizes supportive, behavioral, mindfulness based interventions in both group and individual therapy. Dr. Dintino also has a private practice in NYC, where she provides integrative treatment to individuals suffering from emotional and mood disorders, anxiety and personality disorders. Dr. Dintino has extensive experience and expertise in the therapeutic use of creative arts in the holistic treatment of individuals and communities. She is a faculty member of the Institutes for the Arts in Psychotherapy.  Most recently, with Emilie Ward, she is co-founder, and co-facilitator of Drama Lab NYC, a therapeutic performance company.

Nick Brunner (Director) is currently working as a Recovery Counselor for Goodwill Industries of New York/New Jersey.  Nick holds a BA in Culture Studies from Indiana University and an MA in Drama Therapy from New York University.  He has experience working in various capacities with children and adults living with mental illness and also individuals with developmental disabilities.  Nick is also a theatre artist who has written, performed, and directed pieces of original theatre in San Francisco, New York, and in the Midwest.  He is interested in creating new works of therapeutic theatre that both challenge and vitalize the communities they serve.

Alec Silberblatt (Playwright) is a playwright and actor and is very excited to be working on this project with such lovely people.  Plays include: Room for One (Middle Voice Theater Company), A Friend (Rising Phoenix Rep’s Cino Nights), Norway, The Lone Soldier, Corners (Finalist in Throughline Theater’s Playwright Competition).  He is the Playwriting Lab Assistant at MCC Theater’s Youth Company and is a member of the Middle Voice Theater Company.  Training: BFA, Acting CCM.

Ming Yuan Low (Music Therapist) , M.A., MT-BC, Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapist, is currently working as the Research and Technical Assistant and Clinician at the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy in New York University. Low has recently presented on the application of music in children’s stories, and music therapy with children with ASD. His research interests at the center are currently focused on the effects of group music therapy on adult clients with developmental disabilities and the clinical utilization of musical theater composition techniques. In his spare time, Low accompanies and conducts community musical theater productions.

Ethan Jones (Collaborator) is a college student at Kingsborough Community College with interest in the arts, music, and writing. He is also an activist. Ethan has performed with AMAS Community Theater and keeps a blog about his life and art which can be found at: mayorofnelson[at]wordpress.com.

Lily Houghton (Collaborator) is a young playwright born and raised in Manhattan. By the age of nineteen she has written three full length plays as well as numerous ten minute festival plays. She has had workshop productions at MCC Theatre Company in their young writer’s festival Fresh Play as well as assistant directed for the festival the following year. Lily is currently mentored by playwright Lucy Thurber, who she studied with at MCC Theatre Youth Company her senior year of high school. Currently Lily is studying playwriting, with teachers Sherry Kramer and John Walsh, and developmental psychology at Bennington College. Her essay on autism awareness was published last year in Teen Ink’s anti bullying book and she was awarded for her advocacy work from both Autism Speaks and the Beacon High School. Lily has worked with companies and places such as The Miracle Project, Signature Theatre Company, MCC Theater, Reading Opens Minds, and The O’Neill Theater. Her writing has appearing in MCC’s “Uncensored” four years in a row off-Broadway at the Women’s Project Theater and Theatre Row. Her plays specifically on autism have set her apart from the crowd, particularly at such a young age.

Craig Becker (Collaborator) is Graduate of the University of Illinois with a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology.  Craig is Associate Director of Residential Services AHRC-NYC, supporting men and women with intellectual disabilities.

Delia Camden (Collaborator) is a proud transgender female activist who is currently employed at the Betty Pendler New York League Work Center. She wants to be respected as a woman and wants to have people use the proper female pronouns. In her spare time, she loves shopping at thrift stores and going to libraries where she enjoys films and TV shows that champion LGBTQ issues. Her favorite is Transamerica.

Henry Houghton (Collaborator) is a young New Yorker with an interest in theater. He has performed at The Child School, AMAS Musical Theater, and the After Work Theater. He is extremely excited to be a part of this project. When Henry isn’t acting he is hanging out in his new apartment or working at the Museum of Natural History.