Theater of Possibility - Rehearsal for Living
Theater of Possibility ("TOP"), founded in 2010, works with underserved populations to foster creativity, teach resilience, and build community through acting, improvisation and the creation of original theater.
TOP programs in Seattle and Bellevue serve kids, teens, and adults with autism spectrum and other ability differences, as well as peer allies. TOP also works with economically disadvantaged kids living in subsidized housing.
TOP has received four annual Youth Arts Awards from the Seattle Office of Arts Culture.
Now underway: Fall 2022 programs include weekly classes and an advanced troupe, which will create an original play to be professionally performed at ArtsWest in Spring 2023! See below for details and contact Lauren Marshall for registration and more information.
About TOP classes:
TOP offers an inclusion program, especially designed for youth with autism spectrum and other special needs, as well as typically-developing peer allies. (Siblings welcome!) Every person is valued for their gifts. Through fun theater games and activities, students will be introduced to acting, improvisation, collaboration and play-creation. In the latter half of the course, we will work together to create and present original mini-plays on topics of the students' collective choosing.
TOP's curriculum is designed to highlight relationship skills, but it is not didactic and social skills instruction is "through the back door". We meet students where they are at and gently challenge them to stretch their capabilities.
Weekly classes in Seattle at University Heights Center:
Teens/Adults (ages 15 and older): Saturdays, 9:30–11 AM, October 1 –Dec 17 (no class 10/15 or 11/26). Last class goes till 12:30 PM for potluck and showcase.
Kids/Tweens (ages 8–14): Wednesdays, 3:30–5 PM, Sept 21–Dec 7 (no class 10/12, 11/9 or 11/23). Last class goes till 6 PM for potluck and showcase.
10% sibling discount, half- scholarships and pay-what-you-can available on request. No one will be turned away for inability to pay. TOP is a DSHS/DDA respite care provider.
Location: University Heights Center, 5031 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
The fall teen-adult class is taught by Jackie Moffitt, with assistance from Susan Moffitt.
The fall kids class is taught by TOP founding director Lauren Marshall, with assistance from Tiffany Elliott.
Clik here for a downloadable flyer.
Contact Lauren Marshall for more information and to register.
Advanced troupe - Spectrum
Casting for this project has been completed. Please send resume and headshot (if you are a performer) to Lauren Marshall if you would like to be considered for future opportunities in TOP's advanced troupe and/or are interested in helping out with this project in other ways.
TOP presents Words Unheard for Sound Theatre's Gaslight Project:
TOP participated in Sound Theatre's Gaslight Project, presenting Words Unheard, an afternoon of three short plays by emerging writers on the autism spectrum, exploring the theme of gaslighting. The event, on July 16, 2022, at 12th Avenue Arts, included Words Unheard by Sofia Ghassaei, Planet Venus, by Beezus Murphy, and Blood, Sweat and Fears, by Jackie Moffitt, along with audience-interactive techniques drawn from Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed.
To get a taste of the transformative power of this event, check out Breaking a Stereotype, Not a Leg, Sofi's interview with the performers, Beezus Murphy, who played her physical self, and Valentine Wulf, who spoke her thoughts and poetry in Words Unheard. Sofi, who is a non-speaker, expresses joy at seeing her words come to life onstage, and invites the performers to reflect on their experience.
Previously, TOP's advanced troupe has presented for Intersections Festival, The World Affairs Council - International Visitor Leadership Program, North American Drama Therapy Association, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Children's Hospital, WA State Arts Alliance Cultural Congress, and an American Alliance for Theater in Education mini-conference at SPU.
Saturday classes at Bellevue
The fall session at BYT runs October 15, 2022 - February 4, 2023 (with a break for the holidays).
TOP on video
Theater of Possibility student Kenassa Sarka shares his story on living and learning with autism, his love of theater, and his desire to go to college in this lovely short video, produced by Rooted in Rights:
TOP parodies behavioral therapy: Check out this excerpt from Autism Therapy for Neuro-typicals by Jackie Moffitt, performed at The Intersections Festival, Seattle, March 2018:
TOP uses forum theater to educate teachers on how to create a more inclusive classroom: Here is an excerpt of TOP youth performing You Don't Have to Freak Out by Lauren Marshall and the ensemble, at Seattle Pacific University, March 2014:
Come Explore the Possibilities! Theater of Possibility ("TOP") helps young people give voice to their ideas and dreams! Through fun and zany theater games, improv exercises and role-playing, we explore the dynamics of friendship, family and school. Along the way, we shape powerful emotions and ideas into moving, profound and funny works of theater.
Social skills are inherent in what we do, but TOP classes are playful and non-didactic. Relationship topics such as making and keeping friends, responses to bullying or exclusion, peer pressure and social injustice, might be explored through the creative genres of a fantasy, sci-fi or absurdist comedy.
We practice flexibility, non-verbal communication, recognizing social nuances, and perspective taking, collaboration and leadership. But the primary focus is on creativity and collaboration. I want to give students tools to better understand relationship dynamics and empower themselves, but rather than deign to teach students how to conform to societal norms, I aim to give them a voice to teach the world!
Who: TOP serves children, youth and adults who are interested in using theater to explore and express themselves more fully and authentically. We welcome students who are quirky, spirited or shy, or who may have Asperger's, autism, ADHD, or other learning or ability differences. TOP promotes an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for each person's unique gifts.
Note: Students must be able to participate in structured group activities or come with an aide. The first class of each session is an introductory class to make sure it is a good fit for all.
Here is what some parents have said about TOP:
Theater of Possibility was highlighted in the October 2017 issue of Seattle's Child in Valuing Difference, about innovative programs for kids on the autism spectrum.
TOP featured in podcast on Education Evolution.
Dr. Maureen O'Shaughnessy interviews TOP founding director Lauren Marshall and veteran student turned TOP teacher Jackie Moffitt in a 34-minute podcast on Education Evolution, Using Acting To Support Neurodivergency with Theater of Possibility, aired June 21, 2022.
Theater of Possibility presents at the World
Presentation for Dads!
Washington State Arts Alliance Cultural
Kenessa Sarka, Xanne Sarka, Lauren Marshall & Jackie Moffitt
TOP perfoms at Intersection Festival!
TOP's advanced troupe of teen and young adult performers is made up of highly talented individuals with autism and peer allies.
Intersections is a comedy festival focusing on equity, inclusion and representation.
TOP at North American Drama Therapy Conference:
Lauren has been selected for the Creative Advantage Community Arts Partner Roster for teaching artists working in the public schools. She was also a selected participant in the 2016–17 Washington State Teacher Artist Training Lab, sponsored by Seattle Children's Theatre and the Washington State Arts Commission.
From 2014–20, Lauren also taught a Theater of Possibility program to youth living in Sand Point Housing. This was a joint project of Solid Ground and Seattle Music Theater, supported by a Youth Arts Award from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and grants from the Windermere Foundation.
Theater of Possibility - Sand Point Youth troupe performed The Rude Princess, a mini-play loosely inspired by The Taming of the Shrew (but with an ending that doesn't make women cringe), at the downtown Seattle Public Library as part of the Shakespeare First Folio celebration, on March 26, 2016 and April 3, 2016. Click here to learn more about this project.
Ways to be involved with TOP:
1. Register for a class (see above).
2. Inquire about volunteering. We seek capable and compassionate teens and adults to participate as student interns and teaching assistants. Community service credit may be available through your high school.
3. Custom-design a workshop for your school or group. Lauren can provide a custom-designed workshop of any length, from 90 minutes to 30 hours, or anything in between in your venue, tailored to general or specific themes. Social skills themes, for example, might focus on inclusion, anti-bullying, risk reduction or self-empowerment. Literary themes might include playwriting, adapting fiction for the stage, or creative generative theater through group improv and collaboration.
4. Book the TOP youth troupe. Bring the teen/young adult TOP troupe to your school or community for a custom-designed interactive theater workshop on the topic of your choice. This powerful video captures TOP youth giving a powerful performance to theater arts educators at SPU on what can go wrong in a class when teachers don't understand autism.
5. Inquire about workshops, trainings and master classes for adults. Lauren offers weekend intensive workshops by invitation and independently for educators, therapists, parents and other adults wanting to learn these techniques. See below for recent partnerships.
Articles about TOP:
Also check out these blogs by Susan Moffitt, TOP parent:
Theater of Possibility - community partnerships:
Thank you to the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Youth Arts Awards, 2012–14 and 2015–17, Arc of Snohomish County, Windermere Foundation (via Seattle Musical Theatre), Ron and Cindi Allen, in memory of Pam Shane Johnsen, and the estate of Leslie Grace, for their support of TOP.
In fondest memory of Pam Shane Johnsen, who served as the assistant teacher for TOP at Sandpoint Housing and University Heights Center over many years. Warm, compassionate and never judgmental, Pam was much loved by our students, many of whom developed close, trusting and long-lasting relationships with her. She was a wonderful teaching partner, uniquely capable of understanding and supporting the students we serve. Pam passed away in 2021. We will greatly miss her and our class dog, Elsie!
Original Material and Coding Copyright © 2010–22 by Lauren Goldman Marshall. All Rights Reserved.