"My Life in Art"

Theatre Artist Karen D. Connell, LCSW., BCD.,MSW., MA—My Life In Art

Foundations students (left to right) Victoria Rice, Terri Blum, Elizabeth Ferguson, & Leigh Ann Gruen

Table Top Theatre is my current passion.

My journey in the Arts has led me along an evolving path. As a lucky child born to a dancing mother and stage managing father, the arts were my playground. My life naturally evolved into years as a performer, director, choreographer, educator and clinician.  Through these experiences I came to know more and more, the value of a life centered in the arts and sought to bring that gift to others.   As the economy and opportunities in arts education and clinical applications began to shrink over the past few years, I wondered about a solution.  And then I remembered….

At the turn of the century families gathered around miniature theatres in their homes to perform scripted plays.  Known as Toy Theatre, small stages allowed families and friends to engage in big productions of classics and contemporary plays.  Families also wrote and performed their own productions. These tiny stages stretched the limits of ideas and resembled most closely a kind of two or three-dimensional puppetry.  Actors surrounding the small stages engaged in interplay with tiny images voicing text, playing musical instruments, singing and manipulating characters and scenes.

So, recently, I decided to think smaller; to shrink full participation theatre to a miniature, to a size that would fit today’s budgets while still providing that vital playground in the arts for children, teachers, clinicians and families. I teamed with Eric Covell, Assistant Technical Director in the Theatre and Dance Department at Muhlenberg College, to design a portable miniature stage for educators and clinicians to use in classrooms and clinical rooms.  We think it would also be a dandy thing to have around the house for creative play!

This summer we tested TTT in two settings: The first was in Focus and Connect: Arts Integrated Group Therapy that I offer for kids needing to develop social and communication skills. Kelly Weaver, a senior art major at Moravian College, led six 12-14 year-olds through a series of exercises that resulted in the kids improvising a play about bullying staged in the Table Top Theatre.

The second was during Foundations of the Creative Arts, a course I teach for Wescoe School’s Teacher Certification program.  In

TTT setting for Elements

Foundations, future teachers learn to integrate drama, dance, music and visual art with classroom curriculum.  Four students collaborated on an original text, The Elements, and made discoveries about the TTT performance space and the many possibilities it holds for the classroom teacher.

Make room on a table top for this playground in the arts!

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