Reviews

A Gift was given, and love poured forth....
Catherine Lyons
Para Educator at The Maryland School for the Blind

The Maryland School for the Blind has had the distinct privilege of hosting MEAC on its campus since 1994. Over 200 students and staff have been afforded the opportunity to experience and respond to a wide spectrum of emotions and rich interactions. Through evidence based therapeutic techniques, individuals are given an invitation to plug into a theatrical based world. Each week, for an hour, they embark on condensed historical emotional realities. They experience the separation of misunderstanding and hatred (Anne Frank); the apprehension and self-doubt in being chosen by God (Joan of Arc); the' shame of difference and vulnerability through a young girl's exploitation as a circus oddity (Zaza); the reluctance of one who finds herself thrust into responsibility and leadership (Queen Elizabeth); the resolve and despair mingled in staying true to principle even when it divided a nation (The Oak Tree of Maryland); the isolation and frustration of a child with deaf-blindness who finds the way for others (Helen Keller). Many other stories are retold with the same passion and intensity.

These past lives and those of our students, merge within that MEAC hour on many levels through an emotional connection. They are all a reminder that lives uniquely challenged have left notable and heroic marks on humanity. It is through these stories that Ms. Margolius and her assistants impart the courage to explore their own feelings and leave a mark uniquely their own.

We look forward to a continued partnership with such an outstanding program.

MICHAEL E. SCHEMM M.A. CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY
Licensed Professional Counselor. Director, Residential Services Maryland School for the Blind

MEAC has been helping students at The Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) since 1994 with its unique approach to reaching severely disabled children and adolescents. MSB is a residential school serving students who are visually impaired/blind. Many are also profoundly to moderately mentally retarded with multiple physical handicaps, and some of whom are also suffering from autism spectrum disorder.

The MEAC approach combines a number of sensory stimulation techniques, including gentle touch and stroking, relaxing music, movement and- dance, and story telling- employed in an hour long session. Initially skeptical, I have personally observed the individual benefits our students have enjoyed as a result of this experience. One profoundly retarded adolescent who often engages in violent rocking and self stimulatory behaviors including loud screaming, slows her rocking and ceases screaming and focuses on the "outside" sensory stimulation being provided. I have watched a severely retarded adolescent with cerebral palsy and pronounced one sided muscle contractions relax to the point that his limbs could be released from their contracted position without resistance. Another severely autistic student who cannot tolerate noisy and other over-stimulating environments without becoming-agitated and trying to escape or avoid those situations gradually became a focused participant who engages in reciprocal interactions with the actors_ and his staff partner.

Most convincing are the reports of the direct care staff who spend eight hours- per day in immediate contact with their students and who are attuned to every nuance of their behavior. These staff report that their students become open to learning opportunities, even if only for a brief period, that the teaching staff never see in the student's 612 hour classroom day. Some staff report that the benefits extend into the evening's personal hygiene routine following MEAC sessions, where they are more cooperative and relaxed and are able to fall asleep more easily.

As the students who are appropriately referred to MSB become more and more disabled, it is our hope that MEAC will continue and even be extended in reaching our students who are often unable to benefit from traditional therapeutic modalities and teaching approaches.

Marion Van Mens-Weizs
Psychologist. Holland, 1989

The magic of the theatre Joanne and her co-workers make lies in the fact that it is something that you experience even if you don't understand it in the usual way. Where Omega's children lack the possibility of understanding, Joanne touches them in emotions that are usually very difficult to reach. Through all kinds of theatrical effects she finds entrances to hidden feelings. She leads her- 'audience' through unknown emotional places, and after that, always back to a happy ending.

A REVIEW OF MEAC WITH SED ADOLESCENTS
Catherine M. Ushack, M.D.
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

RICA-Baltimore is a residential treatment center for adolescents with psychiatric illnesses who require long-term treatment in an inpatient setting. They have a variety of difficulties, including depression, mood swings, the psychological effects of trauma and hyperactivity. All are hurting emotionally and many have great difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings in words. Addressing issues indirectly, such as acting out a play or mime, provides a less threatening means of beginning to explore their issues and feelings.

It was my pleasure to observe a MEAE performance at RICA-Baltimore. This particular story involved a young girl who was hatched from an egg. She was part girl and part bird, a young woman with wings. The story began with the girl-bird discovering her uniqueness. She discovered that she was different from others. These differences, however, were noticed by a circus ring- master who mistreated, taunted and teased her. She became hurt and was in need of healing in order to fly again.

I observed with amazement the intensity with which they watched the girl-bird dance and the efforts that they made at silence. I had not before seen this degree of calmness or serenity in a group of my patients. Aware that several of the teenagers in the room had been abused in the past, I watched carefully for their reactions, concerned that this physical touch might be in some way distressing for them. The manner that they were approached, however, was gentle and tentative. The adolescents responded very positively, expressed non-verbally their trust, and demonstrated, if only momentarily, some acknowledgement of their own uniqueness and value.

How wonderful this was to watch. These hurting, "different" teenagers learning that they can heal their own and others' wounds. They were given the opportunity to express tenderness and to actively lift someone up. They seized this opportunity. With pride, I watched a few of our patients with 'tough' facades caress the girl-bird's broken wing and try to lift her on their own arms, encouraging the girl-bird to fly After many attempts, she was healed and was able to fly. Joyously, they all joined in a dance, celebrating the healing that had taken place, little aware of the healing that had already occurred within themselves.

Catherine Lyons
Child Care Specialist, Maryland School for the Blind. 1999

Differences and difficulties can make formulating and realizing life's dreams difficult. For our 
students this is a reality which makes them, not simple, but very complex. They are a living 
paradox. Their child-like spirit gives them a greater insight to a relationship with God that is free 
of excess constraints and their limitations can sometimes hinder. their ability to realize their 
dreams. We want to thank you for being "dream catchers" by using the arts to create an 
environment that focuses on encouraging and building up your students. A year ago I would have 
said "our" students, but the commitment that you each have made to MEAC, has indeed made 
them "your" students.

You have taken the time to seek to know them as wonderful individuals and not as behaviors that 
needed to be controlled. You are an outstanding group of individuals who have brought wonderful 
gifts - each unique to your own personality - and showered them on your children. Thank you for 
slowing down their dreams in order for them to have time to realize them. Thank you for making a 
difference.

Pam Tellock
Teacher, UCPA of Rochester, NY 1991

Explosive, dynamic, enveloping, and, of course ... magical. These are some of the words that come 
to mind when I reflect upon Joanne and Ashleigh and their MEAC American tour. I can still 
envision the children's saucer eyes, expressive bodies, and emotions that range from apprehension 
and bottled pain to pure ecstasy. As a teacher, you participate and experience the techniques that 
Joanne and Ashleigh displayed. However, to emulate their creativity, professionalism, and 
charisma to even a fraction of a degree seems mind boggling. So, little by little, as I go over in my 
mind's eye, I try to incorporate those techniques into my movement class. My goal .. to continue 
their work and fill in some void as the puppet (Joanne) and the moon (Ashleigh), unfortunately, 
needed to fly back to London.

"BRITISH THEATRE VISITS YOUTH PSYCHIATRIC UNIT"
NRZ
Neider Rhiesche (Rundsten) German newspaper 1990

The carers were pleasantly surprised - the patients were happy. This is an experience that many of 
the patients will not forget in a very long time. Without words and with only music, dance, touch, 
and some comedy, the audience was captured and transported into another world. All this was 
made possible by two young English women in fantastic costumes and professional make-up. The 
two even managed to encourage several handicapped people to actively participate in the 
activities. Carer Paul Geiss, adding to the doctors' enthusiasm, called the event a really wonderful 
experience and declared that they now saw the patients in a totally new light.

Just being a member of the audience was not enough; Joanne and Monika worked intensely for 
over an hour encouraging all patients to take part. The visual effect of the costumes and dance and 
the sound of the music gave the patients a means to expressing their feelings. Psychologist Dr A. 
Dutschmann praised the success of the project, which had come to Bedbrug-Hau on the invitation 
of the Landschafts Verband (Head Organization) of the Rhineland and the University of Cologne, 
and added, 'for the first time the patients experienced something unique.' Students from the 
university were encouraged to take part in the project.

For two weeks the actresses, who specialise in working with disabled people and the 
psychologically disturbed, offered the present hospital staff a wealth of creative inspirational 
ideas. Dr. Stollner from the children and young adults psychiatric unit said happily that MEAC 
had been a fascinating experience adding to the creativity of the clinic. He also expressed the desire 
to have staff with the skills that MEAC offered at Bedburg-Hau on a full time basis. He said that 
'would almost be a revolution.'

BALTIMORE MAGAZINE'S ARTICLE: "AWAKENINGS"

In a recent article published in the Baltimore Magazine, Kathleen Renda describes the birth of MEAC as the " ... (Belief! that people classified as different by society lack an outlet to express and communicate feelings." To remedy this chasm of emotional expression, "Margolius invented Magical Experiences' concept of the theater-as-catharsis to do just that."

Kathleen Renda muses: "How does theater therapy work? Some of the nuances mystify even Margolius herself, like that glitter she uses at every workshop, which is sprinkled into the palms of each participant at the beginning of the plays. Though they've never before experienced what Margolius dubs 'magic dust,' almost all the audience members will eagerly wait with cupped hands."

MEAC was voted "Best of Baltimore" Theater Troupe by the Baltimore Magazine in 2006

BALTIMORE SUN NEWSPAPER; HEALING THROUGH ART
Gilead Light

Joanne Lewis-Margolius wants to dance into the darkness and touch the children living there. She's doing that now, moving her hands toward a 12-year-old boy who cannot see.The boy's name is Ken. A moment ago, he seemed anxious. He was shaking his head and arms aggressively, twisting his neck, sitting, then lying, then standing on the floor mat in a gym at the Maryland School for the Blind. Now, charmed by the dancer's gentle touch, he is still. He seems to be 'listening' to the touch, feeling the emotions traveling up his arm from his fingertips. Without words, Ms. Margolius tells him a story.

This evening the story is that of Anne Frank, which presents, in Ms. Margolius' interpretation, a chain reaction of emotions - joy, loss, fear, terror, peace.

"When we first worked with Ken, he refused to be touched, " Ms. Margolius says. "He was letting out these cries of pain, hiding in the corner all huddled up ... He was terrified. But this is Ken's fourth session with MEAC, and after one minute of physical interaction with dancer-volunteer Karen Blackmon, the boy wears a smile bigger than his face. He squeals with joy and throughout the next hour of dancing, hugging, and feeling, his unbridled laughter fills the room.