History - main

Joanne Lewis-Margolius was only nineteen when she founded MEAC. To her great credit and as a testimony to all her hard work the company, which began as a local English theater troupe, developed into an International company. Following an AA degree at Barnet Art College, Joanne began a fashion degree at the Middlesex University. However, near to its completion, she embarked on a summer of voluntary work with a drama group called Action Space London Events. This was to change her life. The group introduced Joanne to the world of the disabled and theatrical expression. Inspired by this experience Joanne felt the need to create her own ideas about expression. She left college and trained with mime Adam Darius, ballet dancer Jacky Hands. and movement teacher Ronald Wilson. MEAC was born.

It began with a seven page proposal, a budget of $300 for equipment.

"Our presentation will consist of various instruments, costumes and props, but the key element we will use is our imagination. Our success will be measured by the energy put in by volunteers and artists alike. The. response of our participants, I hope, will be one of renewed motivation and expressed feelings of recognition as the individual is drawn out."

In response to the proposal, the Haringey Arts Council provided the first grant in support of establishing the organization. In March, 1986" The Royal Society for Mentally Handicapped Adults (MENCAP) took MEAC under its wing by providing insurance and administrative assistance which allowed the group to reach its. financial and professional 'goals. Local disability organizations gathered together groups of children and adults to participate in the twice weekly evening shows, and London based schools welcomed MEAC into their classrooms. The Borough of Haringey provided the troupe with a performance space and office - By July of 1986, the vision had become a reality.

''A London based Arts Company.-which does pioneering work with severely disabled - individuals; is going to West Germany to-take part in a major research project: The Magical Experiences Arts Company (MEAC) will spend six weeks at the University ofCologne, beginning in March. While the group is there, mental health. and education. experts at the University, recognized as one of the leading Institutions in the world for research into the subject of children with disabilities, will observe the company at work and try to analyze how the methods used by MEAC have achieved its historical breakthroughs with the -severely disabled. - Peter Scott, London. Gazette February 1996

Germany was just one of the many countries that discovered the 'phenomenon' of MEAC. Traveling throughout Europe, Scandinavia, Israel, and eventually America, the troupe evolved its philosophy and perfected two new methods of work: Emotional Stimulation Therapy and Historical Arts Education.

An excerpt from the published work: Fragmental Experiences and Impressions of the Magical Experiences Arts Company.
-- By Professor Wolfgang Lamers and Dr. Theodore Hofman - University of Coloqne.

Each player's receptivity and observations combined with their own unique artistic flair bring the play to life. It offers- room for adventures, moods, and feelings; through- happiness and high spirits; pain, sadness, disappointments and anxiety; physical and spiritual strength; through excitement and activity; peace and relaxation; and 'submersion of character through comfortable closeness and through distance both physically and emotionally. The actors become equal partners with the participating individuals, and together as subject, they become the object of the play. It is a fascinating phenomenon to see the disabled and non-disabled partners, who are normally looked upon as unequal, due to their perceived limitations and social dependencies, in equal, mutual, and reciprocal relationships with each other. Rarely does one get to see the disabled become the supervisor, care aide and nurse of-their able-bodied counterpart. But MEAC makes it happen. It is difficult to explain this phenomenon, but it is truly amazing to witness.

MEAC'S first trip to The United States of America was comprised of six week tour of the United Cerebral Palsy Schools and Adult Day Center of Rochester, New York in 1990

As a farewell to the troupe, the UCP students showered Ashleigh and Joanne with artwork depicting their experiences during the performances.

On January 14th, 1994, Joanne Lewis-Margolius arrived at Dulles Airport, Washington D.C. "MEAC" was packed away on a cargo ship sailing from the Port of Haifa, Israel to the States. In preparation for the cargo's arrival, Joanne contacted Special Education schools throughout the State of Maryland. The first recipients of the newly arrived troupe were The Kennedy-Krieger Institute, The Maryland School for the Blind and The Baltimore Association for Retarded Citizens (BARC). Just as in other parts of the world, none of these American facilities had ever experienced anything like the interactive performance workshops. It took time, perseverance, and devotion to the mission, but years later, MEAC found a new home at The Maryland School for the Blind's Jen C. Russo Arts Center. And with support of organizations, such as The Maryland State Arts Council and The National Endowment for the Arts, as well as foundations like the Zanvyl & Isabelle Krieger Fund and the John J. Leidy Foundation, MEAC has thrived and developed Emotional Stimulation Therapy, thus continuing to practice and promote the benefits of therapeutic theater for individuals with disabilities.

MEAC has performed long-term residencies and presentations at the following facilities:

Adult Care Centers

  • BARC
  • Opportunity Builders
  • The Copper Ridge Center

    Goucher College Internship Program

    Schools/Treatment Centers

  • Maryland School for the Blind
  • Regional Institute for Children & Adolescents
  • United Cerebral Palsy Delrey School
  • Kennedy-Krieger Institute
  • Cedar-Lane School
  • William S. Baer School
  • Rock Creek School
  • Ridge Ruxton School
  • Menucha Inc.
  • Maiden-Choice School