Musical Theatre as Therapy
by Melissa Lushington, "Don't Cut Corners...Unless It's Cake" - Blog 6
Hello everyone! If you have been keeping up with my blogs at this point, then you already know my background in terms of my autism story and my mechanisms in coping with it. However, if you are new here, and this is the first blog post you are reading, then allow me to introduce myself. My name is Melissa Lushington, and I am currently a college student who attends the institution of Community College of Philadelphia. My major is Communication, and my career interest is journalism. My autism story began when I was a small child and I was always isolated and distant from people. I always had poor eye contact with individuals, and I struggled a lot to communicate with people verbally, even though there were some attempts wherein I tried. If you want more detailed information about my autism story, please feel free to read my very first blog post titled The Bridge of Friendship between Autism and The World. In this blog post, you will read more about my struggles with autism during my younger years, and how difficult it was at times for me to overcome them. You will especially read about the one thing that did help me become more social and interactive with people: theater. Musical theater has been in my life since I was four years old, and it has been my best friend in terms of helping me open and break out of my shell. In 2011, I joined an after school program known as Drama Club and have participated in multiple roles throughout high school that enabled me to become the person I am now in college. Based on my experience, I can tell you that musical theater has the power to do wonders for the autism community. It did wonders for me, and it certainly did wonders for a young man name David Petrovic who is a teacher, author, motivational speaker, actor, and autistic individual.
In an article titled Growing up on the autism spectrum, musical theatre was my therapy, David explains that he has been involved in musical theater for 17 years, and he also explains how the theater world changed his life for the better when he states, “It opened the door to a new world of infinite possibilities from the moment I had the courage to step through it.” David had the encouragement to participate in musical theater was his first-grade teacher. It started with mimicking the voices and lines of characters from TV, movies, and plays. These mimics would take place in school in which he would disrupt the class and draw negative attention to himself. Rather than face punishment for it, his teacher suggested that his mother would get David involved in theater in order to redirect his verbal desires more appropriately. When that happened, David explained how his life changed in an instant when he states, “Once I was taken under the wing of an understanding director, I was able to soar to new heights.” In many ways, David explains how theater made him a better person by saying that it made him more compassionate, empathetic, and sympathetic to his fellow peers, it helped him stay organized with schoolwork as well as motivated him to accomplish expectations and commitments at any location, it helped him have a more confident style in his movement of dance, and it also helped him discover that life takes place onstage. Two of the most important things that theater has done for David, is that it helped him accept himself for who he is when he states, “I stand firm in testifying that theatre has provided life-coping, life-altering, and life-benefiting skills for me. Some even helped me to accept and embrace my autism!” It especially provided David an escape from the stress and hardships of life, and it gave him the opportunity to find joy and friendships with others.
In conclusion, everything that David Petrovic has said about how theater can change your life, I could not have said it any better myself. Creativeness, imagination, artistic, poetic, and originality are some of the many things that make me who I am today, because of musical theater. I would be a very different person today if it were not for my history with musical theater and the performing arts. David feels the same way about himself as well when he states, “I do not know what my life would be like if I didn’t have theatre in it!”. When it comes to the performing arts, not everyone takes it seriously. In schools and universities, only two fields are prioritized highly: the sports field and medical field. Many people do not look at musical theater or the performing arts as an unrealistic profession to pursue, causing many hopefuls to be discouraged from pursuing it. I hope that after reading this blog, it will open enough eyes to help people see that musical theater and the performing arts is not some fantasized hobby that is only done as a school or community activity. Musical theater and the performing arts are a realistic and serious profession, the most real thing about it are the many ways it can change a person’s life and make them a better individual. Especially for the autism community, musical theater will open so many doors and provide opportunities to help autistic children improve on their social skills and expand their inner circles by meeting new people and forming relationships with those people. I recommend it highly based on what theater has done for my life as an autistic individual, and how it made me a more connected person when it comes to speaking in front of large groups of people, engaging more in social conversations, and creating lifelong meaningful relationships with people that I will carry throughout my life. David recommends it highly too when he states, “For any reader who has a child on the spectrum, or IS on the spectrum, I strongly recommend theatre as a way to improve one’s social skills and boost morale and confidence. It also fosters relationships that could potentially teach and enhance teamwork. These are just some of the ways that theatre has changed my life!”