The UF Center for Arts in Medicine’s Theatre for Health team has been facilitating theatre workshops in 2016-17 for middle and high school students in Franklin and Alachua counties.
The workshops, entitled “From Distress to De-Stress,” address challenges young people face when coping with stress in their daily lives. The workshop team consists of faculty, artists in residence and students working together as co-facilitators.
The mandate of the workshop is to explore the purpose of stress and brainstorm healthy and constructive ways of managing stress. Each session begins with a combination of Applied Theater warm-ups, games and exercises, which introduce workshop content, followed by the creation of original scenes by the workshop participants. They then perform their scenes for one another and participate in discussion related to the theatre content, students’ personal experience of stress, and health impacts of stress. This process invites students to reflect on, and teach their peers about, stress management in a very active way. Issues related to fighting, personal and family conflicts, alcohol and substance use and emotional regulation often emerge during the discussion. The workshop concludes with a Q&A and local health/mental health resources.
The Theater for Health team has facilitated the workshop 22 times, working with approximately 500 students. They have observed a very high level of engagement in the workshops in both the theatrical forms and in the discussion. In past years, workshops have covered STI prevention, intimate partner violence prevention, stress management, gender stereotypes, and sexual and gender identity including LGBTQ identities.