Training Institutes Reflection

ENACT is proud to have just launched what will be an ongoing program to provide quality training to professionals working with adolescents in public schools and beyond. ENACT’s Training Institutes provide an opportunity to share the evidenced-based, trauma-informed research and practical knowledge that our Clinicians and Teaching Artists have developed over almost 30 years. We kicked off 2017 with our January Institutes on “The Creative Container.” Through these workshops, participants ranging from Art Therapist to Neuroscience Graduate Student learned about collective trauma and how it impacts adolescents in the classroom via negative behavior patterns and reduced ability to reach educational and social and emotional goals. Through experiential processing, active exploration, and pieces of ENACT’s time tested methodology, participants developed empathy for the challenges their students face and insight into how to create safe spaces to foster self-awareness and expression.

A noted highlight of the two-day intensive training was the recognition of resiliency and its important role in both our and our students’ lives. Our second day of training ended with the creation of a “Resiliency Dance” where participants pieced together original physical images of challenge and resiliency in order to gain better understanding of the power to overcome. As ENACT moves forward with more training we plan to focus on the resiliency we see in ourselves and others as a strength-based approach to addressing collective trauma.

If you are interested in more information about upcoming Training Institutes, please contact

Makeup Mask-Making Group at Khalil Gibran International Academy

by Adam Stevens

I have the honor of interning at Khalil Gibran International Academy situated a hop, a skip, and a jump from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  As is the case with many adolescents, the love of pop culture is very present among the students.  The students, inspired by their celebrity idols, will go to great lengths to access the latest trends in fashion, music, and makeup.

I was drawn to the students’ love of makeup noticing the excitement it created.   The students at KGIA use makeup as a means to transform themselves into someone or something else.  At times, this aesthetic transformation occurs several times throughout the school day.

I was immediately transported back to my own high school experience where I was introduced to John Powell’s Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?  Powell’s book explores the complexity of sharing the true self and the fear that accompanies this reveal.  Are the students using makeup to shield their true selves OR are the students using makeup to accentuate and explore a collection of selves already integrated within them?

This curiosity encouraged me to ask my supervisor, Rebecca Elkin-Young, permission to begin a ‘Makeup Mask-Making Group’ that would be facilitated during lunch periods.  During lunch periods at KGIA, students gather in the ENACT office for a psycho-social clubhouse, and find a moment to breathe and/or connect with other students as respite from the chaotic high school rigors they encounter on the daily basis.

Students were asked to design mask makeup concepts on makeup face template using markers, colored pencils, and other art supplies.  After they finished their makeup mask design, the students where given the chance to apply their designs to their faces using makeup samples provided by cosmetics companies.  Upon completion of the makeup on to their faces, excited students gazed at their reflections in mirrors and cell phones.  Ms. Rebecca and myself took this time to allow students to express what they saw and what they felt in both group and individual settings.

The ‘Makeup Mask-Masking’ group was well received by students, female AND male.  Through playing with makeup, the KGIA students were given the chance to uncover and discover insights about themselves in a safe space.  We noticed students create projections of future selves and also, played with the idea of fantasy and celebrity.  We witnessed internalized emotions being externalized as students exhibit a great deal of bravery and courage.  The ‘Makeup Mask-Group’ has become very popular at KGIA.  The students have requested that ENACT hold the group as often as possible.

Rupaul Charles, female illusionist and Emmy Award-winnig host of Rupaul’s Drag Race shared a reflection, “A face is like a work of art. It deserves a great frame.”   I am grateful to be able to hold a space with an extraordinarily supportive supervisor where we can create frames for our students to express themselves openly and honestly rehearsing and performing the individuals they wish to become and see in the world.

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Collective Resilience

Dear Friends,

If school walls could talk you would hear the collective voices of our youth echoing messages of hope and hopelessness, bravery and fear, solidarity and isolation. Every day, through my work with ENACT in New York City public schools, I find myself humbled by the heroism our students use to overcome untenable life situations. Their extraordinary sense of resilience is a continuous inspiration to me! A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Woman’s March here in NYC. I found myself marching near a group of young high school girls chanting “we are the change”. The resonance of their chant and their powerful force of energy motivated me with every repetition. We have much we can learn from our students about resilience and it has always helped me look deeper at my own. To me, resilience is that seed of hope we water when we feel hopelessness, that creative spark that generates works of art to embody and express our feelings and that action we take to be part of a larger change. This month, I encourage all of us to tap into our own sense of resilience as a force that drives us to overcome and be the change maker we all seek to be!

This is the time of year when ENACT begins to work towards our culminating theater showcase with our professional actors working side by side our students in,” Show Up!.This year, the theme is “Resiliency.”  In the spirit of “it takes a village”  we will continue the momentum we built last year with a small, trauma-informed symposium preceding the student’s performance by bringing together a  group of like-minded practitioners, educators and parents to share out ideas and best practices. Stay tuned for more details about Show Up! in the upcoming weeks!


Diana Feldman
President, Founder & Executive Director

#ClaimingMyRole: New Social Media Campaign

This year ENACT decided social media would be the best way to connect the Show UP! audience and the greater community to the students’ lived experiences. But where to start? Darci Burch, teaching artist and drama therapist, and Barbara Kaynan, event planner and drama therapist, were charged with fleshing out the campaign.  Through the course of planning meetings, it became apparent that it would be critical to place students at the center of the campaign. Darci and Barbara latched on to the students’ exploration of roles they desired to play versus roles they felt others made them play. Combining the theme of labels with role theory, a theory and method founded by Dr. Robert  Landy, the campaign evolved to provide individuals the opportunity to identify labels they were assigned and to claim ownership over a label, or role, to which they felt a deeper association.For this social media campaign, Darci and Barbara decided to create multiple role cards that would serve two distinct purposes. First, the students in the show and audience members chose a card with a word on it. This word would describe a role or label the person had been called in the past by others, which didn’t accurately describe who they feel they are or how they identify. The participant then chose another role, which described how they felt about themselves or how they wanted to be represented. The roles were vast with over 50 to choose from as well as an opportunity to write a role on a blank card if none of those supplied fit. Two columns on the wall read “People think I am…” and “But really I am…”.  Participants physically placed a role in each column thus claiming which role they wanted for themselves. Pictures were taken with the role cards and a chalkboard displaying the hashtag: #ClaimingMyRole.

The hope for this campaign was for the audience, and greater ENACT community, to identify with the students’ experiences of being labeled and how these labels aren’t always an accurate representation of who they truly are. It also allowed the audience to reflect on their own experience with assigned labels. This campaign aims to remind everyone that each person can choose the role they play to positively affect how they feel on the inside and are seen on the outside. The community was galvanized around supporting the students as they entered the process of claiming their roles together for Show UP! 2016.

Be on the lookout for more of #ClaimingMyRole in the future as well as new hashtags that continue to stay relevant to the central themes of the students’ work. The goal is to deepen the connections between the greater community and ENACT students, so everyone can stay involved in the facilitation of healing and creating change.


2015-16 Year in Review: New Directions

15-16 Year in Review_Shortened The 2015-2016 program year was marked by change, challenge and growth for the ENACT team. With an eager set of newly hired administrators, the team decided to focus their priorities around increasing its program partners, ensuring for increased quality control, launching ideas that had never gotten off the ground and employing a strategic marketing plan.

Program staff worked diligently to broaden and enhance organizational communications and to share ENACT’s unique program offering with potential partners in support of expansion goals. This included an updated newsletter and a newly developed company blog to reflect various perspectives of the organization. Founder, Diana Feldman, created From The Founder to share her experiences as leader of ENACT. Staff also set the goal of making a social media plan that would create thoughtful and meaningful content, while cultivating a larger and more engaged following. Finally, staff arranged program demonstrations with city agencies, nonprofits and schools as way to illustrate the engaging nature and effectiveness of ENACT’s methodology.

New developments this year included piloting a short-term program in Los Angeles, additional funding through the Anti-Gun Violence initiative through The New York City Council and the launch of Young Friends of ENACT: the young professional’s network with Credit Suisse.

As a result of their collective efforts, ENACT worked in all five boroughs serving an increased number of schools and alternate learning centers with more than 2,500 students, school staff, parents and caregivers. Teaching artists led 1,244 student workshops, 130 professional development trainings and 78 parent and family workshops. At long-term sites where students participated in programming for a full academic year through in-school and after-school workshops, student attendance improved by almost 80 percent, with eleven students achieving perfect attendance.

From the Founder: Students Impact the Work

From the Founder 1st postWe are pleased to announce, we have a new addition to our website. From time to time, our President Diana will be sharing her words of wisdom and insight on various topics. Our mission always relates to our students so of course our first post is focused on how our students impact our work.

Haven’t we all heard classroom students utter words like, “This is boring, or this is stupid!” We sometimes hear students say negative statements to us directly or indirectly through their behavior. Never a good feeling to be on the receiving end, but, it simply means they may not be connecting with us or the classroom material. Engagement and relationship building are key to creating a willingness to learn. The ENACT teaching artists are naturally engaging because they are actors, but they must work developmentally; meeting the kids where they are moment to moment, willing to rip up and change the lesson plan as needed.  The good news is that listening to our students is what keeps us on our toes and at the top of our game.” Diana Feldman on how the students we work with impact and enhance the ENACT method.

This week Founder, Diana Feldman, reflected further on the unique, yet significant impact students have had in shaping the ENACT method. By transforming the classroom into a safe container, the ENACT method allows students to explore every day issues like bullying, peer pressure and violence through interactive theater and drama therapy. Through her experience teaching in inner city schools, Diana quickly learned that the kids are the best critics since they can immediately sense one’s motives and whether emotions are genuine. Thus, she placed students at the center of the methodology, empowering them to influence the direction, pace and tone of each workshop. Based on the students’ reactions, teaching artists know if their topic selections and drama games resonate with the students, the key she says to the work. The students’ response not only helps enhance the method, but also shapes it to meet their needs. In order to authentically connect with the students and bring about personal and collective change, it is critical that the method maintain, in essence, this sense of humility and adaptability. Here, the ENACT method offers each school and student the opportunity to identify the issues important to them and what they need rather than the reverse. Therefore communicating that they are respected as contributors, valued for the unique obstacles they face and are partners in the work. In this way, ENACT instructs each teaching artist to listen and maintain flexibility, so that they can meet students where they are and help them overcome the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives.