NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — In Branford, performers are warming-up onstage, getting ready to make eye contact and connect with others while learning to go with the flow.
“What improv is, is that we make up stuff as we go along because improv is being able to think on your feet,” says participant Michael Cozzi, a 27-year-old from Norwalk.
The adults in this improv class are on the autism spectrum.
“There’s no right, there’s no wrong, there’s no judgement, it’s just fun,” says facilitator Marylou Lauricella, who has led ‘drama therapy’ for years, even working with veterans who experienced PTSD.
“It allows them to step into someone else’s shoes, to empathize, to imagine, ‘What if I was that person and who would I be.'”
Being spontaneous, recognizing emotion, and understanding humor can be challenging for those on the spectrum, but working through skits is effective for participants like 23 year old Gianna Catalano.
“Just being able to come up with stuff by yourself and like get it out,” says Catalano.
“We see such potential in all the folks we work with and we really want them to have every opportunity to be successful,” says Sara Taussik, director of programs and training at ASRC, Autism Services and Resources Connecticut, which is offering this program at the Legacy Theatre in Branford.
It’s about making friends, trying new experiences, boosting confidence and simply, having fun.
“I like to test myself, test my skill,” says Cozzi. “I think I’m good at it, maybe even getting better.”
“Theater is magical!” says Lauricella.
The 8 week class has been so successful that organizers hope to offer it again in the future.