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New Perspectives - Oct, 1992 Issue 

Dinner Theater Therapy At DeSisto
A. Michael DeSisto, Executive Director
Stockbridge, Massachusetts
(Taken from the Berkshire Eagle, 8-16-1992)

Treatment for troubled youths comes in many forms. At the DeSisto School in Stockbridge, a private school specializing in the needs of students with emotional problems, one form of help offered is deep immersion in the performing arts.

Organized six years ago by the school’s Executive Director and founder, A. Michael DeSisto, the dinner theater program provides 10 students and one former student with a unique opportunity to learn about the theater and themselves. That is at least what DeSisto, also Executive Producer of the productions, and other school faculty, hope will take place.

“The theater gives kids the opportunity to feel things in a safe way”. DeSisto explained. “Many of the students are not able to show or experience their feelings because they are afraid or embarrassed. The theater allows them to get used to feeling. And that’s healthy.
The feedback they get from it is also very powerful”, he continued. “They get an immediate good response that can sustain them. It’s like feeding Shamu (a performing whale at Sea World). He knows there will be more if he continues. The kids know it, too.”

Believing that if given the chance, all kids really want to be good, DeSisto said Dinner Theater gives his kids that chance. “Theater is very disciplined”, he said. “The pressure of a performance makes them control themselves in a good way. They have to be ready to go and do their performance each night. They have a responsibility to focus on that evening’s production. (Dinner Theater) lets them see that they are not as out-of-control as they think they are.”

Because they have experienced problems such as drug or alcohol abuse, family difficulties, depression or criminal behavior, the student performers involved with the program say they do seem to discover, often for the first time, meaningful friendships, a sense of accomplishment and renewed self-respect. “I love performing”, said 16-year-old Cristina Campanella, who came to the school because “it was either here or jail. I feel very safe here and I’m helping myself. It’s a better alternative to drugs and alcohol. Plus, I get to sing this Southern song, and I’m from Louisiana, so it’s really neat to do the part. It fits me really well”, she added, visibly delighted at the realization that she is enjoying herself and her new role.

Copyright © 1992, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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