In February, 1986, in response to the drama therapy activities Joanne Lewis was involved in, she decided that conventional drama therapy was not addressing the needs of children and adults with severe disabilities. There was little or no emphasis on emotional development, and the negative emotions ( sadness, fear, loneliness, frustration etc.) were simply ignored. Joanne believed it essential to create a method of work which would address the negative emotions, and provide a safe outlet for the expression of these emotions, A method was also needed to recognize and celebrate the ‘humanity’ and strengths of those living with severe disabilities.
In 1986, Joanne introduced the disability community to her new method, which was termed: Emotional Stimulation Therapy. This technique, unique to the Magical Experiences Arts Company provides an interactive technique appropriate to any age range, level of disability or communication problems due to illness, disability or trauma.
Emotional Stimulation Therapy was created with the aim of helping those who find communication, mobility and security in their everyday lives extremely difficult. People without such disabilities have the capacity to express emotions through the use of language and/or their bodies. For someone with a severe disability this can prove to be a major obstacle. MEAC believes that these individuals have the same needs for self-expression, if not greater due to their daily struggles. Often, however, their emotional requirements are suppressed. MEAC’s method is designed to tap into such suppressed emotions and provide an outlet for them to be vented. This is done through a theatrical structure with the role of the workshop leader taken by performers who control the activities from within an overall framework that encompasses a story-line. The emphasis of each performance lies in exploring the different emotions experienced by the main characters at varies stages of the story, which, in the past, have included feelings of persecution and freedom. The role of the students is neither one of a passive observer nor one of performer; but they are actively engaged in the experience during all aspects of the play.
The outcome’s are life-changing. Participants of the Emotional Stimulation Therapy Method will display increased skills in daily self-expression and communication skills. Self-injury, and negative behavior problems will be reduced greatly, if not completely. Gross motor skills will see improvement. Interactions between participant and family, peers, and the greater community will be enhanced. The ‘humanity’ of the participant will be recognized, and celebrated.
The theatrical structure of each performance uses a foundation of the Expressionistic Mime Method: To use the physical body to express emotions, without the use of the spoken word. This form of mime differs from other forms, because it demands the practitioner to stimulate the use of ‘real life’ experiences to express the emotions, rather than the use of ‘acting’. Joanne Lewis-Margolius has been a teacher and practitioner of Expressionistic Mime since her meeting with the American Mime, Adam Darius in the summer of 1985.
Historical Arts Education
Changing Lives in the Present by Experiencing the Past
The first MEAC presentations were based on emotional journeys, using fairytale, cultural, and historical themes. Children were greeted by icicle queens, bears, Elizabethan jesters, and an array of characters from Commedia Dell’Arte.
A dramatic change occurred in 1987, one year after the founding of MEAC, Joanne Lewis watched the film, ‘The Elephant Man’, a film depicting the life of John Merrick. The brutality, ignorance and inhumane treatment of Merrick inspired Lewis to begin a journey, which over a period of three and a half decades has produced numerous plays that confront the historical treatment of children persecuted because of disability, religion, culture, or simply because they are considered ‘different’.
Historical Arts Education is dramatically different from anything seen or experienced before in the Special Education community. Interactions, emotions, and story lines push the boundaries of what was believed to be appropriate for the severely disabled individual. The method has been used in a highly successful way with children, adolescents and adults.
Testimonials from the diaries and biographies of historical figures have risen from the pages and become classic plays, in which MEAC strives to help children and adults facing their own daily struggles find inspiration and strength. Spanning over centuries, participants will have the opportunity to meet both factual and fictional characters. Anne Frank, Helen Keller, Saint Joan of Arc, Charles Dickens, Elisha Stockwell, just a few characters that will take the stage as part of MEAC’s unique programming.
MEAC takes great care to present these dramas in a sensitive, yet truthful way. The organization has been highly acclaimed for it’s ability to tell these profound and touching stories to populations all around the world.
“I want to go on living after my death. And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift.. Of expressing all that is in me.” Anne Frank