AU grad uses applied theatre as ministry to children

Wed, 2012-03-07 07:55 -- univcomm
March 7, 2012

With her interest in a branch of theatre called applied theatre, Anderson University alumna Dori Elliott is reaching out and ministering to kids in the Anderson community. The 2011 graduate began a theatre program for Anderson youth at Park Place Community Center as part of her Senior Theatre Capstone Experience, a final project that allows seniors to demonstrate their acquired knowledge from a program.

elliott-dori“Basically, applied theatre takes theatre out of its traditional context and places it directly within a community or group of people who can use the theatre as a way of self-exploration, community problem-solving, and building or developing skills,” said Elliott.

Elliott reaches out to kids who would not normally have access to this kind of art form. The program was designed to help kids build confidence, inspiration, and imagination, as well as to practice interpersonal relationship between participants.

Elliott drew from her love for theatre and for people who need special attention and care while designing this program, but her passions were evident through other aspects of her life at AU as well.

“One of Dori’s absolute favorite theatre productions here at AU was a piece called ‘Living Out.’ It illustrates the drastic disconnect between those American mothers — specifically recent, Hispanic immigrants — who struggle to make ends meet, and the elite, privileged American mothers who are at liberty to pursue careers or interests of their choosing,” said Kelsey Miller, a fellow theatre major and roommate during Elliott’s senior year. “Dori’s heart for theatre is wholly entwined with her heart for people. She pursues work that she can believe in and that she believes will impact her community for the better.”

Elliott began the theatre program at the community center with organized plans for how she would interact with the kids and help them learn in this new environment. Her highly structured lesson plans were soon discarded when she realized the lack of stability and scheduling in many of the kids’ lives.

“It was definitely a learning process for me, but by the end of the semester nearly all of the students were enthusiastically participating and enjoying all of the activities,” said Elliott. “I think joining in with the kids and playing the games myself also encouraged them and gave them permission to be involved and to take risks.”

The last meeting of the program showed the kids’ eagerness to participate in new activities and games with members of the Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project and the AU theatre arts program.

Elliott aspires to lead more programs like this in the future. After moving to Lafayette, Ind., for a year, she hopes to continue her studies to become a licensed drama therapist.

— Lydia Hawley is a sophomore from Ohio, majoring in public relations and dance. Hawley is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.