Welcome Home: Threads of Therapeutic Theater
Amber Bartlett ’22 wanted to incorporate her life experiences into her senior thesis – and she did just that. The show that she created and performed in, “Welcome Home: Threads of Therapeutic Theater,” was shown as part of the Brandeis Department of Theater Arts’ Senior Festival. The festival, which lasted from April 29 until May 1, also included performances by Rosie Sentman ’22, who had a performance of “The Opposite of People,” an adaptation of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” by Tom Stoppard, and Elizabeth Hilliard ’22, who created an original musical called “The Pocket Girls.”
According to Bartlett’s note in the program, she learned of the power that theater can have for healing at a young age after she witnessed it herself during a youth production of Stephen Schwartz’s “Children of Eden.” She also wrote that the theme of the show was “home” because of the different meanings that the concept can have, but that “we are all searching for home through constant change,” and quoted Maya Angelou, saying “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Bartlett spoke to the Justice about the meat of the thesis, which she said incorporates drama therapy, psychodrama, psolodrama, The Rainbow of Desire, playback theatre, self-revelatory theatre, play therapy, and immersive theater. When audience members entered The Spingold Theater Center’s Laurie Theater for the performance, they were told that audience participation was completely optional, and she emphasized
that the aspect of fear should not exist in theater. The structure of the show included audience volunteers sharing experiences that they had with the people on the stage, and that would be the basis for what was happening on stage. Bartlett mentioned that one form of audience participation was people acknowledging and empathizing with their fellow audience members.
To prepare, Bartlett made sure that everyone in her cast was trained in body language, and she also had training sessions with industry professionals to better understand what they were going to be doing during the show. The list of people who came to speak to Bartlett and her cast included Joel Gluck, the inventor of the psolodrama, Will “Will C” Chalmus ’07, one of the founders of Playback Theatre; Dr. Laura Wood, a registered Drama Therapist; and Rebcca Coates-Finke. During the interview, Bartlett stated that she would not have been able to put out this production without the help of her guest mentors. The advisors for Bartlett’s thesis were Prof. Adrianne Krstansky (THA) and Prof. Jennifer Cleary (THA).
The cast of the show consisted of Bartlett, as well as Felicity Hyams ’24, Clay Napurano ’24, Morgan Silcox ’22, and Eran Zelixon ’23. Gavriella Troper-Hochenstein ’23 and Juebin Roh ’23 worked with Bartlett on the technical aspects of the piece, helping out with the audience interaction and stage managing, respectively.
In the back of the program that each audience member received upon entry, there was a list of both on-campus and national mental health resources, as well as a place for audience reflections for those who did not wish to vocalize in front of the larger audience.