Misericordia Students and Alumni Perform with
PATASPHERE at Scranton Fringe Festival
Misericordia University Professor in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), Cari Tellis, Ph.D., founder of PATASPHERE (PATA) and student Jacob Thomas performed a Performing Arts Training Academy all-original musical, “In Search of Marjee,” at Scranton Fringe Festival. The Festival took place at the Scranton Cultural Center at Masonic Temple on September 20th and October 1st and 2nd of this year.
Through a compelling combination of storytelling, songwriting, and dance, “In Search of Marjee” addressed the social pressures faced by teenagers today as students, authorities, and the community, when upended by the recent disappearance of local high school student, Marjee. Where they begin to seek to find out just what happened. "In Search of Marjee” explores issues facing teenagers today such as acceptance, belonging, non-conformity, peer pressure, bullying, and more.
The non-profit organization’s primary objective is to promote vocal health and vocal awareness and to instill in young performers the foundational knowledge of physical movement to decrease the risk of vocal and physical injury related to speaking, singing, and dancing. The skills they learn at PATAsphere will not only prepare them to communicate effectively with kindness, empathy, and respect but will help to nurture our future leaders, fostering critical thinking and interpersonal skills. Participation in performing arts programs has also been shown to build self-confidence and self-esteem, and improve children’s attendance at school.
However, the feelings of acceptance, belonging, non-conformity, peer pressure, and bullying hits home for those who express themselves at PATAsphere. Orlando R. Barone, scriptwrite and Tellis’s father, originally wrote “In Search of Marjee,” to highlight the feelings of isolation and loneliness that arise with bullying as many who struggle with speech and other disabilities know these feelings all too well. Jacob Thomas is an SLP student at Misericordia and a long-time performer at PATAsphere. Thomas explains how this was started prior to Covid. Now that we are in post-covid times, the whole world can relate to these feelings more than ever before. The musical now relates to everyone on a deeper and personal level that some may not have connected with prior to the pandemic.
Thomas expressed how there was so much more to writing the musical from just an SLP perspective, but also a feeling of acceptance and love for those who belong to the PATA community. “One of the things that I am most proud of with PATA is that we are able to create a safe and inclusive environment for anyone who comes into our programs. We focus on our values that every performer is beautiful, talented, safe, and strong and we create this with our environment,” said Thomas. These words of affirmation are told to the performers at PATA to let them know they are in an environment where expression is free with safety and acceptance.
What also makes PATA so special is the fact Misericordia Alumni continue to return to help and perform. The work done at PATA is greater than just the normal performing arts group. The group is cohesively bonded by the ability to grow together in a safe, inclusive environment that welcomes all who want a home with them. The doors do not close at PATA for those wanting to return to help, perform, and be included within their community.