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Students to Educate Communities About Autism on Statewide Tour

See the play at Hiram on March 1: at noon in the Pritchard Room at the Hiram College Library, and at 4:15 at the Frohring Performing Arts Center’s Showboat Theatre.

For a full list of performances across Northeast Ohio, visit the class’ blog – some are open to the public.

The Center for Literature, Medicine and Biomedical Humanities aims to spread autism awareness across Ohio this semester.

Last semester, Brittany Jackson ‘04, assistant director of the Center for Literature, Medicine and Biomedical Humanities, taught a class called “Exploration of Disease by Performance: Autism,” where she worked with students Cara Battaglia ’12 (theatre arts), Allison Fox ’13 (accelerated biomedical humanities), and Amy Morton ’13 (integrated language arts) to develop their understandings of autism and the various effects it has on people with the disorder and those without.

After much research — reading literature about autism and conducting interviews with people affected by autism — blog maintenance and collaborative writing, they have produced a play titled “It’s Okay,” which they are ardently rehearsing this semester.

Come March 1, all of the effort of this unique class will come to fruition when Jackson and the students tour several venues in Ohio (including libraries, high schools, colleges and other public arenas) putting on the play for audiences of all ages.

This part of the process is perhaps the most crucial; Battaglia, Fox, Morton and Jackson are now responsible for putting together an appealing and educational work of art for different communities, enlightening the public about the knowledge they have spent so much time pursuing.

“Community outreach is an extremely important aspect of this project because it is the community that needs to be informed about autism,” Jackson said.  “We need to be told or reminded that just because someone is nonverbal, that does not mean they cannot communicate.  Our way is not the only way.”

To select places to perform the play, Jackson contacted community groups that have a focus on autism and several schools.  One of the play’s important goals, after all, is reaching out to students, hopefully educating them about autism at a younger age.  Jackson says that the positive interest in the play was overwhelming.

“Suddenly, we were hearing back from places all over Ohio who were interested in having us perform,” she said.  The class had no trouble booking performances at all of the venues; most, after reading the script, booked immediately.

The fourteen performances will take place between March 1 and March 10, 2012.  Some will be at Hiram College, but there are also performances scheduled in the farthest reaches of Ohio — from Findlay to Milford.

To maximize community involvement, audiences will be encouraged to speak with the cast and authors of the play in post-play discussions about the play and autism in general.

Throughout the process, the students and Jackson have been blogging. Read their blog.

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