Welcome to The Play On Words, the blog where the spotlight is on communication. And in the spirit of such, I’m going to tell you a bit about myself and the purpose of this blog.
I am a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist with a passion for Broadway, both are the loves of my life and have been since my childhood.I see as much theatre as I can and support many artists and their projects. I grew up singing badly, dancing decently, and only enjoying drama onstage. As I was working with school aged-children, I’d find common threads among them, and noticed they stuck together. They created their own families, often bringing their nuclear families together in close bonds as well. As I watched this happen, I thought of every theatrical family I was a member of or had the privilege to watch from a seat in a crowded theatre. I noticed that my students all believed themselves to be “other,” “different,” or “not normal.” Often they’d come to me for advice on making friends, being more outgoing, public speaking in class or the morning announcements. They’d tell me they’re too much or not enough of something–that they somehow didn’t fit some mold that they believed they needed to squeeze themselves into to be accepted by others. These students of mine have a variety of abilities, patterns of strengths and weaknesses and diverse but strong passions for what they love. I noticed very quickly that I am all of these children, in some way, and they’re all the theatre kid that I will always be.
This got me thinking about the theatre community. Theatre kids are often called the “misfits,” the “oddballs,” the kids who are too much or not enough. The kids who know how to put on a show, but just being in every day life could prove to be a challenge. How we found our families in rehearsals and backstage, making stage moms and stage families. Why did these kids and families stick together? They felt that they were “other,” finally finding their people who got them–no questions asked, no explanations necessary. They knew all the words to their favorite monologues, can recite their musicals of choice backwards and forwards and reference anything remotely theatre-adjacent for their own enjoyment to any unsuspecting conversational partner.
I mentally drew this Venn Diagram and acknowledged the similarities between my students and theatre people, and thought to myself, “Why not fill in the gaps?” After all, who could better understand the need to be human than someone who works within the human connection by definition? Who better than an actor whose experienced a hundred lives through playing to help explain perspective taking to those who don’t understand? Mama Rose told her daughter, “Sing out, Louise!” because it made sense to her. Can I teach my students to communicate and speak up, use their voice? Sure. I do it every day. Do my kids go on to love the arts and participate in them? They do. But they ask me, “Why is it so easy on TV/stage/in the movies? The ending is always happy. It makes sense to them. I want to talk to them.”
So here I am, in my personal attempt to bring the worlds of my students and theatre together here on this blog. Here, I will spotlight some of my strategies for my students, while talking with people in the world of the arts about how they communicate through their mediums and as people. Hopefully, this will bring families together, help create the found families that people are looking for, and bridge a communication gap. Who said communication had to be verbal, anyway? Certainly, not this SLP! High on a hilltop a lovely young governess once advised us to “Start at the very beginning, a very good place to start,” and here we are! Nice to meet you, let’s get started!
Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP