NADTA March Member Spotlight

It is with great pleasure that we announce a new member benefit: Member Spotlight. Each month, you will be introduced to a member of the NADTA and be able to read about their experiences, interests, and special projects.  By spotlighting our members, we hope to shed light on the rich diversity of our membership and on the wide array of contexts in which drama therapists work.

Please tell us about your path to drama therapy? 

My earliest memories of drama therapy were the childhood times that I'd cast my brother in a performance and the two of us would gather the grown ups around us, after which all the fussiness and missing each other's best sides that can happen in family life would change into something else much better for a few hours or more. Early protestant values from home, our town American culture, and Robert Kennedy's poetic calls to action had me thinking about service from an early age. All the while, I was staging things: leadership in groups, pep rallies, fundraisers for one local cause or another were vehicles for adolescent exuberance. With those roots, I sought to make change by working within the system in Washington, in the theatre of politics. The work that followed led me to a fellowship at Harvard where I focused on how to think critically about the social and political stories that were shaping our policies and our humanity. From there, I began to identify my inquiry as a writer, which led me through an interest in the power of narrative and in script writing with a first blush at independent films. After having two children and committing to their development as a mother, my work teaching acting became increasingly described as transformational with process valued above performance-a process that was a hybrid of my own training in acting and various consciousness raising initiatives characteristic of the time. One day I saw Renee's book in the window of a local bookstore. I had an immediate resonance with her work. Years later, I found myself seeking her out for an informational conversation which led to completing the drama program at CIIS.

Who have been your greatest mentors and inspiration in drama therapy and outside of our community?

Well, in addition to Renee who was my BCT in the Alternative Training Track, Armand inspired me. Before enrolling in the Drama Therapy program, I attended an NADTA conference in San Francisco. The Thursday "Specials," as I call those workshops given the day before the conference officially starts, included a workshop co-led by Armand and Suzanne Pendzik. The day-long workshop took the meme of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as the basis for a diversity training experiential. It was quite innovative, and I'm an incurable romantic, as it's turning out. I have not been healed by drama therapy of my romanticism -- for better and worse-- so Romeo & Juliet, along with the potential for youth diversity work for social change was an irresistible combination. The community that energizes Developmental Transformations and its brilliant reach toward healing trauma that is the brain trust of David Read Johnson infuses my work and aspirations for clinical outcomes of resilience. John Bergman's voice keeps it real and radical, I'm thinking particularly of being introduced to his work with adolescents where he compiled meaningful data that supports uses of drama therapy as an evidence based practice. It was my good fortune to spend a day long with Boal on his last visit to San Francisco.

Outside the field, I am influenced by other creative arts therapies and their contributions, as well as thoroughly influenced by the two years of training during my internship at Lomi Psychotherapy Clinic, a somatics training site and community mental health clinic.

Work in intercultural communication and toward violence prevention also draws my professional and heart attention. Hey, I was 16 when I saw Man of La Mancha! Once Don Quixote opened that chest of ragged props and costumes to transform into hope and vision the despair of the oppressed and imprisoned, I was charmed. Dulsinea's position was not very interesting to me.

Please tell us about your current work and projects.

Currency is the key word here because I am increasingly aware of how significant a step it is to get work of the creative arts therapies into circulation, flowing as currency when the work is ready.

We are about to enter the Admissions process in the Drama Therapy Program at CIIS, which is a formidable responsibility, and I am honored to take part in that with my colleagues.

I'm teaching a course this semester on embodied approaches to trauma and resilience. It is inspiring to witness the palpable reality of twenty one empaths, a class of drama therapy students being willing to confront the disturbing details of trauma on a Wednesday night after they've been in practicums, second jobs, and packing school lunches for their children by day. The compassion in that classroom is life-changing.
 

I have a small private practice and hope to grow it with the economy, shall we say. Other things I'm doing: I work with 7 year olds in an at risk culture that has placed them in a social service program for supplemental emotional and academic support. Next week, two CIIS students are coming out to that program (LEAP) for their pre-practicum, and I'm thrilled by that kind of cross pollination.

I guess that brings me to my passion for GlobalChill.org, a burgeoning virtual organization of drama  therapists and youth advocates from high conflict zones in six different locations working toward a youth intercultural communication project that uses drama therapy and film, among other influences. We are ready to go and we are seeking funding and/or partnership to take it to the next level. If any readers have a suggestion, please contact me at frenchfrisher@gmail.com.

What inspires you about drama therapy in your work today?

It works wonders, that's what inspires me about drama therapy! Wonderful is the incremental feeling of authentic freedom whenever we increase embodied interpersonal contact. Drama therapy inspires me as a 21st century resilience tool for resolving losses, dislocations, and cross generational transmissions of historical trauma that have us isolated in our cells. (pun intended)

Where do you see the future of drama therapy unfolding?

Well, naturally, I think first of the locations where GlobalChill.org is focused currently. That means I see the future of drama therapy unfolding in India in the work of Maitre Gopalakrishna and Evan Hastings, in Palestine in the work of Ben Rivers and Jonatan Stanczak at The Freedom Theatre, in Zimbabwe in association with the activism of Betty Makoni on behalf of women and girls, in Oakland California with John Scott's work and fine work being doing by so many friends and colleagues in the Bay area, anywhere within Armand's outreach for reconciliation and healing the wounds of history, and in Afghanistan where the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers are eager to engage in drama therapy for social change after spending their entire childhoods in war.

Wherever drama therapy unfolds in the future, it can be traced back to the ongoing and countless ripples out from Renee Emunah's Theatre for Social Change, David Read Johnson and Hadar Lubin's work at the New Haven Trauma Center, the rigor of Nisha Sajnani's scholarship and voice, Stephen Snow's relentless work toward inclusion for the differently abled, John Bergman in the field keeping it real, Robert Landy's bridge to popular culture with his Psychology Today column, and any and every one who has spoken up in the field about how privilege and oppression are being addressed at the intersections of race, class, culture, and gender, first, within ourselves as drama therapists and in the field.

What does your NADTA membership mean to you?

NADTA membership means to me that we have an opportunity to be in community with the dreams and disappointments that come with vocation. The intercultural inquiries in the form of diversity are the lifeblood of what it means to be an NADTA member, and the more we can embrace that work together, the more confidence I feel in the community. NADTA membership means the most fun to me when I can attend a conference with my friends and colleagues. The fact is that every year there are folks that cannot afford to make the trip. This is where the organization can ground us as a professional community. We need to raise awareness around what we do for a living so that the decision to become a drama therapist is self-sustaining, indeed thriving, so we all make it to the conference!  

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