Come join in the excitement of storytelling!

TheaterWorks is a program that integrates music, art, movement and education into a fun theater experience for individuals with special needs. Familiar Disney stories, fairy tales, songs and nursery rhymes are chosen and adapted by the music therapists and the group to match their age, ability and interests.

Our TheaterWorks program utilizes music and story structure to provide the foundation for the development of important life skills and to meet goals, such as:

  • Language Development
  • Cognitive/Problem Solving Skills
  • Increased Social Skills
  • Sustained level of engagement
  • Self-Expression
  • Self-Esteem

In addition to the themes and concepts in each story, we also use the qualities of music (Rhythm, Dynamics, Melody, Tempo, etc.) to shape/emphasize the overall story. When music is paired with actions and emotions group members can use it to anticipate where the story goes, providing a sense of organization and confidence. This structure allows for more sustained shared engagement and enjoyment for both verbal and non-verbal participants.

Our classes generally have two therapists and often include several volunteers (which usually include students but may also include parents, siblings or caretakers who would like to participate) to provide great role modeling and support. Our TheaterWorks staff welcomes group members to suggest stories and encourages their ideas or changes to the stories (character names, setting, songs/lyrics, and/or providing a new ending). This adaptability to change is designed to put our group members’ contributions at the center of our program, providing a shared musical experience that encourages the development of creative skills.

The structure of the TheaterWorks class includes:

  • A welcome song that builds community and connection within the group.
  • Theater games that focus on reinforcing the themes, concepts and vocabulary related to the story for that day.
  • An overview of the story to build familiarity and engagement with the story.
  • art project to help create the scenery, props or costumes.
  • Two performances of the story which provides each group member the opportunity to explore moods, expressions and actions through playing two different roles within each story.
  • A closing circle where thoughts, feelings and experiences about the story and what they liked best are shared prior to a goodbye song.

The final class offers the group members a chance to shine and be celebrated by performing some of their favorite stories from the semester for their parents, siblings, grandparents and friends or anyone else who would like to come. The shows have been a great experience through which the group members grow and build confidence while also being a source of enjoyment for our friendly audiences!

Here are some quotes that capture the impact of the Arts For Healing TheaterWorks program.

I thought this would be good but it so much better than I thought. I can’t wait for my students to get to do this!” A Community Center Director who came to observe a TheaterWorks class in another center.

I hope you’re going to do this class again next year. There isn’t anything else like this being offered and the kids love it.” Parent to a Community Center Director.

I was very nervous before the show but I did it! I’m so proud of myself!” – Young adult group member who almost backed out of doing the show for the parents due to nerves.

“What a dramatic improvement in my child’s participation from the first semester to the second! This was great!”Parent of group member who had just completed the second semester of our class.

“It has been a thrill to see this program go from being a wish and idea in my head, to a description on paper that actually got funded and then to see it implemented so beautifully by our wonderful Arts For Healing staff! We’ve had successful classes in our first year for pre-schoolers, elementary students, teens, young adults and adults. More schools, community centers and individuals are now requesting the classes and we are excited and ready to grow. We also very much appreciate the volunteers whose participation is so helpful. Each group has reinforced the meaningful impact and powerful benefit of having the TheaterWorks program!” – Susan Nisinzweig (grant writer for TheaterWorks)

Special thanks to the following foundations for responding so enthusiastically to our grant proposal and for supporting us to launch and expand our TheaterWorks program! The Barbara Benton Davis Fund, Fairfield County Community Foundation and First County Community Bank

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I've seen Manny move from being isolated and in his own world to being able to join his peers in school and even at home with his younger sister.

- Jason, Manny's father


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