Shakespeare and Autism

Expanding the Work in 2015-2016

By Cammile Bullock (MFA '15)

In November 2015 Patricia Heaton (BA '80) and David Hunt joined faculty, staff, and students from the Department of Theatre and the Nisonger Center for a production of Tempest in Action  on the stage of the Thurber Theatre. Kelly Hunter, the creator of the Hunter Heartbeat Method (HHM), directed the piece with Assistant Professor Kevin McClatchy as Prospero and Sifiso Mazibuko as Caliban. Other actors included Robin Post, Andrew Trimmer, and Sarah Ware. The stage of the Thurber buzzed with excitement as the actors performed for and with a group of young people on the autism spectrum. Award-winning TV star, known for Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle Patricia Heaton shared her theatrical and television experience with our students in a Q & A. This was the first time Patricia Heaton had returned to Ohio State since her graduation and it was an exciting moment for all. 

Spring 2016 was an exciting time for the Shakespeare and autism class at Ohio State. For the first part of the term, our class of both graduate and undergraduate students learned a variety of Hunter Heartbeat Method games based on The Tempest, and, starting in February, began participating as teaching artists in two workshops per week at the Nisonger Center with children on the autism spectrum. The participating students ranged in age from 8-14, and represented a variety of interests, personalities, and ability levels. Spring 2016 also ushered in Ohio State's collaboration with Bridgeway Academy, a school specifically designed for students with autism and developmental disabilities. In addition to Nisonger workshops, those of our students who could fit it into their schedules volunteered their time to go into classrooms at Bridgeway and conduct workshops, spreading the benefits and joy of the Hunter Heartbeat Method to even more special-needs kids in the Columbus community. 

Our own students in the Shakespeare and Autism, testify below to the significance this service learning course has given them during their time at Ohio State:

I couldn't ask for a better class to end my undergraduate college career … This class was tough but it challenged me differently than any other class I have ever taken … (It) has positively affected who I am more than any other class.--Amy Greenblatt, BA '16

Shakespeare and Autism was by far one of the best classes I took as an undergrad … This is an opportunity to share your love of theatre in ways you never have before. Regardless of what you wish to pursue after graduation, this course will show you how theatre can be applied in the world beyond what you see on a stage—you will experience just how powerful theatre (and Shakespeare!) can be.--Katy Olson, BA '16

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