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Local arts therapy program subject of academic study

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Journal Staff

Does a free therapeutic arts program enrich the lives of local youth?

That’s what a Lambton College research study will determine about Sarnia-Lambton Rebound’s ACT II.

The theatre-based program uses an artistic approach to help youth reach their full potential in a fun environment.

Principal investigator Michelle Shelswell said the research study will add to the body of knowledge about vulnerable youth, and what prevention supports theatre might provide as a protective factor in their lives.

“There are five years of anecdotal evidence to suggest that is does,” said Shelswell.

This is the sixth year Rebound has offering the free ACT II program. Costs are offset through ticket sales, sponsors and donations.

The program was the brainchild of Shelswell and Richard Teskey, who now both work as faculty at Lambton College.

Shelswell will use various researching tools, including the Canadian youth resiliency measure and the Rosenburg self-esteem scale.

Preliminary results from this year’s program will be combined with pre-and-post evaluations in the 2016 theatre production.

“The goal is to determine if ACT II is a successful program that is meeting the needs of children and youth in our community,” she said.

The program begins in late spring and culminates with a four-show theatre performance. This year, youth are staging The Wizard of Oz, Sept. 17-19 at the Imperial Theatre.

ACT II is open to youth aged 8-24. More than 100 participants meet three evenings a week and in full control of the production, including casting, choreography, set design, backstage, acting, lighting and music.

“There is this tremendous energy about ACT II that I can’t explain,” said Maddisyn Fisher, who has been involved the past four years.

“It’s so much more than a play. It’s a life-changing experience.”

Fisher, currently enrolled in theatre at York University, joined the program as a member of the ensemble cast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Four years later she is directing The Wizard of Oz.

“It gave me the support I needed. It was this safe environment that really became my other family,” she said.

Shelswell said quantified data that indicates a benefit could help other therapeutic arts programs leverage funding.

It will also be useful as an educational tool for college faculty

“I have witnessed the Act II program help youth in their lives,” she said.


WHAT: Rebound ACT II presents The Wizard of Oz

WHERE: Imperial Theatre

WHEN: Sept. 17, 18 and 19, 7:30 p.m., plus a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee

TICKETS: $12, available at www.imperialtheatre.net, by phoning 519-344-7469 or the Imperial Theatre box office.


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