The power of performance: Drama therapy takes center stage with the Roundabout Playback Troupe

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By Renee Larr

While getting on stage may be frightening to some, for others it is therapeutic. One group of actors will showcase the power of performance through two shows at the Monon Community Center in March in honor of Disability Awareness Month.

The Roundabout Playback Troupe, an award-winning acting group that includes adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities as well as adults without disabilities, formed in 2014. Michelle Yadon, the MCC’s inclusion director, created the troupe after finding success with a similar organization.

“I started an inclusive playback troupe down in Bloomington when I was working down there. It was really powerful,” she said. “Playback can be done in a therapy group. It can be done as advocacy. It can be done as performance. I wanted to do it as performance and advocacy.”

Playback theatre is an interactive improvisational performance. The troupe’s shows March 18 and 19 will feature monologues written by people with disabilities in the first act and playback improvisation in the second act. Audience members will share their stories, and the group will act them out.

“The show is called ‘I See You,’ meaning we see past people’s disabilities,” Yadon said. “We see people for who they are. It’s to celebrate people’s strengths, uniqueness, their stories and how we’re all one and the same.”

The monologues seek to empower those with disabilities by focusing on their abilities.

“There is one monologue by a woman who has been a baker for 16 years. It’s her dream job. Her monologue is about employment and how to get your dream job. It’s really beautiful,” Yadon said. “There is a monologue with two women who are best friends. One has a disability and one does not. They’re getting an apartment together after one of the women graduates from high school. It’s about independence and friendships.”

The audition-based group works to celebrate the differences of its individual members while operating as a cohesive unit.

“It’s really beautiful, because when we’re all together, we’re just completely equals,” Yadon said.

Music director for the group and troupe member Giannina Hoffmeister said she feels all participants get something different out of participating. She was approached by Yadon to see if she had interest in assisting and jumped at the opportunity.

“What the group has drawn out in me is a personal journey,” she said. “I’m learning about myself, and I’m 73 years old. It’s as if we’re bonded.”

The group has come a long way in its short history, recently winning an honor from the Indiana Governor’s Council for Disability Awareness and the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association Inclusion Program of Excellence Award.

“The last couple of weeks of rehearsals have really been blowing me away,” Yadon said. “They’ve been extremely powerful because of the connection the troupe members are having with each other and the understanding that they’re having of what the tellers are saying.”

The adults with disabilities develop and learn a myriad of skills from their participation in improvisation, Yadon said.

“The troupe (members) themselves have broken stereotypes. The leadership people have been taking has been awesome. Just recently many of the members have been stepping forward and leading the warm up or leading the cool down. It’s been really great to see that assertiveness and leadership build,” Yadon said. “A lot of it is growth of self-awareness, self-determination, abstract thinking, communication skills and then a greater understanding of self and the community.”

‘I See You’ performances

When: 6 p.m. March 18 and 19

Where: Monon Community Center, 1235 Central Park Dr. E., Carmel.

Cost: $5. Tickets available at the Monon Community Center.

Info: 848-7275.

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