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Actors with developmental disabilities star in ethnodrama

Therapeutic services in music and drama result in production called Our World
June 5, 2012
By Renée Dunk

Few people would dispute the value of culture in our lives. But when you’re an adult with developmental disabilities, the importance of culture may mean even more when carving out your place in the world.

Take Lindsay Dauossis. She’s a participant in Concordia’s Centre for the Arts in Human Development (CAHD) group program, which offers therapeutic services designed to improve the overall quality of life of adults with developmental disabilities. These services are provided in the form of art, drama, music and dance/movement therapy.

Caption. | Photos by Concordia University
Our World: A musical ethnodrama is a new play being presented by the Concordia’s Centre for the Arts in Human Development on June 14, 15 and 16. | Photos by Concordia University

Dauossis loves singing and dancing, and says she’s already been in at least three or four plays. Our World: A musical ethnodrama, a new play being presented by the CAHD on June 14, 15 and 16, is special because it’s the first time she’s been asked to sing a solo. The song she’s performing is about exploring heritage, which encouraged her to learn more about her own cultural background – her grandfather was born in Greece.

“We sometimes celebrate our culture at home,” she says. “But now I know more.”

Lenore Vosberg, CAHD’s executive director, says Our World’s message is that multiculturalism and diversity should be explored and celebrated.

“This is an incredible and inspiring show about respecting one another’s backgrounds,” says Vosberg.

David Allen
David Allen is one of the participants in Our World: A musical ethnodrama.

Our World, CAHD’s 10th production, was written by Stephen Snow, an associate professor in drama therapy, in conjunction with the cast, and is co-directed with drama therapy graduate student Simon Driver. Based on the lives of program participants, Our World explores the importance of culture in each actor’s life and features both original songs and adaptations of classic or current pop tunes. 

“They each chose what resonated most to them, and Stephen and Shelley [Snow, the show’s musical director] took it from there,” explains Vosberg. “The actors will also be performing a traditional Ukrainian dance and the Horah to honour their backgrounds.” 

Snow’s research at Concordia focuses on performance ethnography, or theatrical representations of what a researcher discovers through participant-observer fieldwork. Writing and producing ethnodramas, such as Our World, involves participants or “informants” re-creating their personal experiences to express their feelings and to foster a better understanding of their lives and challenges.

“The research/creation component of an ethnodrama is the participative process of writing a play,” says Snow. “The idea is that the informants are in control of everything, including the information that is picked up on by the researcher. Performance ethnography provides a vibrant and textured rendition of a culture.”

Snow explains that the goal is to promote the autonomy, self-confidence and social skills of the participants. “We’re also looking to break down barriers and stigmas aimed at people with developmental disabilities.”

What: Our World: A musical ethnodrama
When: June 14 at 6 p.m. (Gala event: cocktail reception at 6 p.m., performance at 8 p.m.) ? June 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: F.C. Smith Auditorium, FC Building (7141 Sherbrooke St. W.), Loyola Campus
Cost: $50 for the gala performance, $20 for regular performances
Tickets:  514-848-2424, ext. 4397 or online at

For more information: 514-848-2424, ext. 8616.

So what is an ethnodrama?
An ethnodrama allows participants to re-create their personal experiences in order to express their feelings and to foster a better understanding of their lives and challenges:

Related links:
•    Centre for the Arts in Human Development
•    Department of Creative Arts Therapies
•    Stephen Snow’s faculty bio page

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