Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Acting Without Boundaries

Name of Innovative Program: 
Celebrating Abilities
Sponsoring Organization
Acting Without Boundaries
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Christine Rouse
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
Acting without Boundaries (AWB) transforms the lives of young people with developmental disabilities while educating audiences about the capabilities of -this often-invisible population.  AWB creates a supportive environment where participants develop self-confidence in their abilities, rather than disabilities.  Our fast-paced society provides little room for individuals living with disabilities.  As early as elementary school, a gap appears and continues to grow.  AWB helps bridge this gap. Under the direction of Artistic Director Neill Hartley and Music Director Maria Ceferatti, AWB provides monthly theatrical training workshops, social outings and two full-scale yearly productions. AWB provides the benefits of involvement in the arts to all adolescences with disabilities without cost.  Many dream of pursuing a life on stage, yet are often isolated and excluded from many levels of society.  Our actors feel that while on stage, the audience sees a cast of actors, not a group of disabled individuals. Kids are Kids!,an additional AWB program is an educational community resource about disability. It provides first-hand experiences to audience members about how living with a disability can turn a daily routine into a challenge. Through these presentations, we provide a brief insight into the daily challenges faces by disabled individuals.                                                             
Creativity and Innovation: 
AWB  fufills unique roles in both its arts- and health- related aspects. Living in a society where disabled individuals are marginalized, AWB provides a platform for them to explore their passion and express themselves in the limelight. Adolescence is a time of change and challenges, suicide being the third leading cause of death, a developmental disability adds another dimension. Difficulties in communication and social rejection can increase risk for developing stress-related disorders, including depression and anxiety. AWB was established by an individual living with cerebral palsy.  With few opportunities to engage in activities with other disabled teenagers, adolescence was difficult.  AWB is a much-needed program, encouraging adolescents to achieve their goals and dreams, a place to form friendships, gain confidence and develop skills. AWB is one of the only theater organizations for individuals with disabilities.  Kids are Kids! teaches how bullying can only magnify the difficulties disabled students experience daily.
AWB was established in 2004 by Christine Rouse in response to the challenges she experienced growing up with cerebral palsy.   AWB and Kids are Kids! are successfully paving a path for youth by providing them with the necessary confidence and skills needed to achieve their dreams and not let their disabilities stand in the way.   Rouse is focused on the creation of new programming in support of improving the behavioral health and societal treatment of individuals with disabilities.  Our partnership with the Arden  has provided our actors with the experience of performing on a professional stage, in addition to drawing a new audience to our shows. Recently she joined the board of Art-Reach, a Philadelphia organization that also believes in the transformative power of the arts. Future projects include a partnership with Wounded Warriors  to extend our demographic reach beyond young adults.
AWB was established in 2004 and has successfully produced 18 shows in addition to financially supporting Kids are Kids!, a free educational program offered to schools and other community organizations.  During this time, local foundations, a dedicated board and many friends have been finanically supportive.  Morover, all administrative costs, excluding salaries, are an in-kind donation from the founder and her family.  Staff expenses are significantly reduced due to the dedication of our volunteer staff.  The assistant musical and drama directors as well over 30 other individuals volunteer their time throughout the season and during each performance.  To insure the safety of our actors, a volunteer is on stage at all times with each actor.  Our annual fund raiser following the last performance of the season as well as suggested donations for our performances have also provided a source of revenue.
All of AWB’s programming has high potential to be effectively duplicated, transferred and/or adapted by other institutions that aid similar demographics. All of our theatrical training programs have been exclusively designed to appeal to those with individualized learning and performance needs; productions are chosen to be age-appropriate and compatible with each actor’s needs. For example, repetition is a highly effective tool that is regularly used in our workshops and rehearsals; performances are rehearsed multiple times to allow actors to fully engage with material and embody it, rather than demanding rigid adherence to a script, which may present problems for our actors with verbal difficulties. Our workshops are designed as universal learning plans and can be used by most disabled actors.  To date, we have successfully produced 18 different performances ranging from Peter to Pan to Fiddler on the Roof
AWB is evaluated annually to determine if set goals are met for the season and to obtain feedback about our organization and programming.  We measure the success of AWB through surveys, interviews and personal conversations with our young actors and their families as well as surveys completed by the audience.  We also look at the attendance at each performance and measure increase/decrease in numbers and the percent of first time attendees.  In 2014 we will implement a rubric provided by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, to evaluate both quantitatively and qualitatively whether we are reaching our objectives. We will evaluate responses from both AWB participants and audience members, to obtain the most thorough feedback about our program. Specific goals for the coming year are: to reach an audience of 2,000;  hold 15 school presentations; and obtain an 80% survey response rate from the audience at each performance.