November 2, 2022
By Shannon Musgrave
For Gena Sims (BFA-Music Theater, 2019), coaching at Carnegie Mellon College College of Drama was about greater than discovering her personal voice; it was an integral a part of her life’s work to assist and assist younger individuals with autism find their voices.
Sims grew up in Miami, FL, the place she has helped increase her youthful sister who’s autistic. From a younger age, Sims was drawn to the humanities, and particularly the theater. She recollects being in a play in center faculty and experiencing the sensation of an viewers really understanding the difficult character she was portraying. That connection to the human expertise and the need to open hearts and minds via inventive expression continues to drive Sims’s work to at the present time.
She based the Autism Theater Venture the summer season earlier than her senior 12 months of highschool. What began as group drama courses tailor-made to fulfill the wants of younger individuals with autism, has grown right into a non-profit training and manufacturing firm whose mission is to indicate the world that everybody has a voice.
The tutorial element of the Autism Theater Venture is rooted in serving to younger individuals with autism discover their feelings and put phrases to what they’re feeling. By workout routines like animal work, focus and vitality video games, and state of affairs position taking part in, Sims helps college students join their feelings to a reputation and an motion, and teaches them how their very own actions can impression others’ feelings.
The manufacturing aspect of the Autism Theater Venture got here into focus after Sims attended the Carnegie Mellon College of Drama as a music theater main. Sims discovered a mentor in professor Barbara Mackenzie-Wooden, who additionally has a sibling with autism. Sims stated Mackenzie-Wooden’s ardour for educating appearing is rooted in her need to assist college students categorical themselves; one thing Sims profoundly understood. Throughout her sophomore 12 months, with the steerage of Mackenzie-Wooden, Sims devised a play as a part of the College of Drama’s annual Playground Pageant – a weeklong exploration of student-initiated and student-directed work. The play, “Within the Lifetime of a Baby,” was impressed by Sims’s sister. It explores the lifetime of a younger woman with autism who finds a magical world the place her schoolmates are capable of hear the voice inside her head. After performing it at CMU in 2016, Sims took the play to Miami in 2018, the place it was produced by the Autism Theater Venture at Actors’ Playhouse and Miami Youngsters’s Theater.
Since graduating from Carnegie Mellon in 2019, Sims has continued to broaden the work of the Autism Theater Venture. Throughout the pandemic, Sims homeschooled her now teenaged sister – an expertise that she calls “life-changing.” She felt an excellent stronger name to develop instruments and sources to assist disabled teenagers efficiently transition into maturity. The most recent initiative of the Autism Theater Venture is an online collection referred to as “The Voice Inside,” which tells actual tales about teenagers overcoming challenges of their lives, from their very own views. Sims is working with skilled autistic playwrights to jot down “The Voice Inside,” and is creating it via Zoom workshops and rehearsals with autistic actors. She hopes the collection will attain teenagers, dad and mom, and lecturers and encourage them to look past an individual’s challenges to see their true potential.
“I need individuals with disabilities to really feel like they will take a look at a video or one thing within the media and really feel like their story is being represented,” stated Sims.
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The put up Alumni Profile: Gena Sims & the Autism Theater Venture appeared first on Carnegie Mellon College College of Drama.