A special project to show the power of human connections through the arts brought together St. Mary’s Care Center residents and students ages 18 to 21 in Verona High School’s functional vocational program.
The idea was to have the two groups, often marginalized in society, work together on a one-act play that looks at loneliness and con- nections.
At the same time, the project would provide an outlet for creativity and help form relationships between the participants from the skilled-care nursing facility and the high school program that teaches job and life skills to graduates with developmental disabilities.
Called “Travels with the Creative Link,” the group performed at the Madison Central Library and Alicia Ashman, Meadowridge, Pinney and Sequoya branches. The final performance was Dec. 16 at St. Mary’s Care Center.
“The show is based on friendship. That’s why I was so excited (to be part of it),” said Robbie Morris, 19, who also enjoyed the icebreaker games at the start of the project and the treats after the shows.
Cindy Opsal, special education assistant, and Krista Kasten, special education case manager, who both work in the functional vocation program, were skeptical when they were approached about the project. “We felt we are so different,” Kasten said.
But Kasten said as she watched the process unfold, she was in awe of how it was all working.
“The relationship we made with all the residents has been amazing,” Opsal said.
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Carmela Mulroe, director of activities and volunteers at St. Mary’s Care Center, brought in Danielle Dresden and Donna Peckett of TAPIT/new works Ensemble Theater to collaborate through a long-term residency.
Peckett said TAPIT was hired to do workshops, activities and exercises to guide the participants as they created their own short play.
Peckett and Dresden also worked on projections and speech.
They also gathered the participants’ thoughts, feelings and ideas about loneliness and connection which was shaped into a script so that most of the lines were direct quotes from participants.
“I loved the connections that developed between the members of the group, such as the young man who always cheered on an older man whenever he got a laugh,” Dresden said.
Peckett said she and Dresden saw TAPIT’s involvement as “a gift to us” because of the attachments they made with the participants.
“I really liked the fact that so many different kinds of people were involved,” said Joanne Farrell, 78, a St. Mary’s resident and former teacher.
“We didn’t make any distinction between ‘You can be in and you can’t.’ We had people in it that took an awful lot of coaching,” Farrell said.