Webpage Supplement to

Chapter 22: Acting for Advocacy

Deborah Zuver

Related Methods:

For more than 25 years, STOP-GAP has provided therapeutic theater in the spirit of popular education for southern California schools, hospitals, senior adult day programs, drug treatment programs, and shelters. The STOP-GAP approach can reach disparate audiences because the actors present activities and scenes tailored to the particular group. Participants see their issues played out, create possible solutions, and watch them come to life in the presentations. Audience input moves the action along and the interplay of group dynamics keeps participants engaged.www.stopgap.org  Provides current information about an organization in southern California that pioneered a therapeutic theater approach to sensitive issues for audiences and participants of varying age and ability levels.

Several groups in the United States have developed innovative approaches to involving adults with disabilities in theater and drama as an art form and a tool for greater community involvement. In Minnesota, Advocating Change Together uses popular education with self-advocates. It is highly participatory with the group’s goal to empower participants. Facilitators enable learning, rather than assume the role of an expert providing answers. Activities are experiential; giving self-advocates a voice and helping them make links with new information, encouraging them to take action toward improving their lives. Role-play is an essential part of this hands-on learning.
Advocating Change Together www.selfadvocacy.com    Provides current information about a range of cutting-edge training materials on self-advocacy and inclusion to be presented by and for people with disabilities.

Awareness Theater Company is a theatrical group composed of people with and without disabilities in Burlington, Vermont. The company was formed in 1998 when the Protection and Advocacy Council (a federally-mandated body in every state) in Vermont wanted to use a theater piece as part of a training to address the high incidence of abuse that people with developmental disabilities face. Awareness Theater Company developed Speaking for Ourselves and continues to perform the piece in schools, at conferences, on local television, and at various agencies throughout the state. The company has gone on to create and perform productions about other issues.Awareness Theater Company: www.vsavt.org/awareness. Describes a theater group created in Vermont to address issues of respect and abuse for people with developmental disabilities.

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Interact Theatre Company creates and performs two original pieces a year, supported by professional actors with formal theatre training. Most productions are satires that challenge society’s perceptions of disability by addressing issues in the disability community such as life in the group home or the emerging role of disability in the arts. Actors tell their stories through humor and drama, with the social message coming second. As their reputation grows, so does the touring radius. The group recently performed at a disability arts festival in England. A documentary film about Interact Theatre Company is in process. Interact Theatre Company: www.interactcenter.com Provides current and background information on a theater group in Minnesota that explores the emerging role of disability in the arts.

Related Books:

Razza, Nancy J. & Tomasulo, Daniel J. (2004). Healing trauma: the power of group treatment for people with intellectual disabilities. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.

Tomasulo, Daniel J. (1998). Action methods in group psychotherapy: practical aspects. Philadelphia: Accelerated Development- Taylor & Francis.

Additional Resources:

This web site describes the High School Self-Advocacy Theater Program, a project of VSA Arts of Vermont. Weekly sessions in seven-week modules introduce participants to theater skills and self-advocacy topics.

A 30-week pilot program for transition-age youth was developed in Central Massachusetts. SAY What? Focuses on practicing self-advocacy and social skills. A description of the project and curriculum is included.

Stage Left Productions offers the Active Arts program for people with disabilities in Calgary. Community inclusion is a focus a number of classes and workshops.

The Dancing Tree is an alliance of artists that is devoted to making the hidden visible. The alliance has a particular interest in involving underrepresented people, including those with a disability.