Sandy Bruce, Founder and Exec Dir of Spectrum Arts, Inc. ("Shenanigans"), was inspired by her teen-aged grandson's challenges in a youth theater production group to research other outlets for his desire to get on stage. She learned about improv theater and decided it would be a good approach to dealing with the social challenges of autism along with giving a performance outlet. So Shenanigans was born! Sandy is well-researched on issues and challenges of those on the autistic spectrum and believes that experiencing the joy of the arts is an integral part of a well-rounded life for people of all abilities. Having enjoyed her casual pursuits as an artist and musician since early childhood, she is passionate about the lifelong rewards found within the arts. Sandy sees accessibility to the performing and creative arts for those with autism as a way to not only develop social skills, but to gain self-confidence and joy through the experience of performing. Incorporated as Spectrum Arts, Inc., she hopes the works through Shenanigans will increase community awareness of the unique contributions of those with autism. Sandy brings a varied business background in sales and corporate marketing communications to her venture, as well as prior entrepreneurial experience in arts related businesses.
JStar, Shenanigans charter instructor, has studied improv at iO (Chicago), The Annoyance (Chicago), Second City (Chicago, L.A., Las Vegas), and Actor’s Express. Bitten by the acting bug as a young child, he began his acting career in college and has performed on TV, stage, film and commercials. With his sharp wit and playful sense of humor, JStar has secured a prominent place for himself within the Atlanta improv community. Besides being a Shenanigans instructor, Jstar is director, founder, and player of The Basement Theatre in Buckhead. He is eager to share his passion for improv acting with students of all ages.
Jason Evans performed his first play when he was in 1st grade & understands how theatre can positively affect a child’s life. He trained in improvisational skills at Whole World Theatre in the '90s and sees the medium as a perfect way to introduce kids of all backgrounds to the stage. Jason, an autism daddy himself, is certified in Floortime therapy, which strongly influences his classes of all ages. Jason's Shenanigans classes are filled with energy and his personal sensitivity to the needs of autism.
Jesse Cramer graduated from Penn State University with majors in English and Theater. He has a strong improv background with professional troupes in NYC, Philly, Boston, and LA and is currently making a name for himself in the Atlanta theatre community as a director on stage and film. In his spare time, Jesse is a playwright and also works as a professional mentor to several teen and young adult clients in the metro area. Jesse's classes are influenced by Floortime and his true instincts in understanding our actors.
Randi Gould, has been a professional Latin percussionist for over 20 years. The Randi G Trio and Randi G and the Jazz Ensemble played in venues around the southeast, including The Opryland Hotel, Cheekwood Academy of the Arts, and Sam Snead Golf Tournaments. Randi has traveled to Canada, Africa, England and all over the U.S. playing latin drums and piano as a music minister and worship leader and mentor. She has been working as a mentor with autistic children and adults for almost two years, using drums as a vehicle for enhancing emotional expression, interpersonal communication, and self-confidence. Prior to that Randi was a parapro in the Cherokee County School system, working with mild-moderate students with emotional, cognitive, and developmental disorders. Randi is a certified Kindermusik educator.
Desiree’ Thomas is an elementary school teacher with over ten years of classroom experience. She has spent a large portion of her career teaching inclusive education and working with children with autism. Her love for performing and being on stage began at birth. By day she is on stage in front of a captivated audience of young boys and girls where she is by far the biggest kid in the room! She recently began taking improv theatre classes and fell in love with the art. Desiree’ is inspired by what improv can do to benefit all children, especially those on the autism spectrum. She brings years of experience, patience, a love for children, and lots of energy!
Alison Ratner is a licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). She received her Master of Social Work (MSW) from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in 2005 and has a BA in Psychology from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Alison’s experience includes working with children, adolescents, families, and groups. She has worked in a number of therapeutic settings. They include a residential treatment facility for adolescents, a free outpatient center for children and families, an outpatient community mental health center, and a private practice social skills center for children. Alison is currently leading social skills group therapy at a school for children with developmental disabilities, providing mental health consulting at a school for children with special learning and behavioral needs, leading anti-bullying and friendship groups in a local pre-school, and seeing children, teens, and families in private practice. As part of the Shenanigans team, she is leading a new class on social skills through therapeutic improv, a more structured approach through improv exercises and therapeutic conversation.
Andy Jones has been in education for 14 years, working in a variety of environments, including with students with special needs. He has also been a professional actor for ﬁve years. At Shenanigans, he gets to combine two of his biggest passions, teaching and acting.
Val Bruce has years of experience with autism through her teen-aged son, who is the inspiration for Shenanigans. Val is Shenanigans' administrative assistant, director's assistant, and occasional video editor and photographer. With her background in piano, violin, and visual arts, she has more recently lent her talents to the art of machinima (videos created using the graphics engine of electronic games), and has earned industry recognition of her works. She also has significant social media experience in creating and moderating a popular machinima forum.
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