Theatre Through Windows; Pro bono Telehealth Psychotherapy
Project Description

Theatre Through Windows is a developing collaboration between theatre artist, community organizer, and educator Courtney Surmanek and social worker, spoken word poet, and performance activist Steven T. Licardi. In June 2020, amid the ongoing global pandemic, Surmanek and Licardi were inspired by the work of Benhur Helwend in Australia and Maurie Voisey-Barlin in New South Wales to conduct a version of "Window Therapy" with local elders at a community care facility in Christiansburg, Virginia. By combining components of improv, clowning, poetry, theatre games, mime, and call-and-response singing, organized around themes such as "creating joy," "finding our magic," and "defining home," Surmanek and Licardi weave an entertacomedic and loving routine that creates comfort as well as stimulates creativity. Surmanek and Licardi don't simply curate a "show" for residents, but create opportunities to create collaborative performance pieces in real time with the residents through windows. This is done by feeding an amp and microphone through the window, allowing Surmenek and Licardi to speak directly to the residents and for them to hear the residents' responses. This model is now being shared with students of Virginia Tech, with the hopes of expanding it to other local facilities.

Translational Perspective

In this time of profound human isolation, perhaps no demographic has been and continues to be more isolated than community elders. Theatre Through Windows represents translational work, as it provides a bridge between the experiences of artists on the "outside" and individuals living on the "inside." Further, the games and activities employed by Surmanek and Licardi create opportunities out of which the performance itself emerges. The work itself is incomplete without the participation of both the artists and the residents, which mimics and mirrors of the process of translation in real time.

Additional Projects

Steven Licardi has been also involved in an additional project. In the early weeks of the pandemic, it became clear that individuals and communities on a scale not seen in a century would be exposed to collective trauma and societal uncertainty. In particular, artists and entertainers were and are currently faced with ongoing financial turmoil as their industries have atrophied and their income streams slowed to a trickle. Within the first month, Steven Licardi partnered with the leadership at Gibney Dance in New York City and their partner organization, "Okay, Let's Unpack This," to offer pro bono and in-kind psychotherapy via telehealth to a select number of individuals, most of whom were dancers, theatre directors, performers, and artists. This work has allowed Licardi to reflect critically on industry standards and to develop more humane, liberating ethical precedents that have shaped his career and that he hopes to see change his career as a social worker and mental health clinician as a whole. This work continues and is in addition to Licardi’s full-time work as an intensive therapist working with youth and young persons in southwest Virginia.

Contact Infomation: First name
Contact Information: Last name
Contact Information: Position title
Licensed Social Worker
Contact Information: Institutional affiliation
School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook University
Contact Information: Email address
licardist [at]

Christiansburg, Virginia, USA