Premiere Stages' Healing Voices OnStage: Caregivers' Stories features piece by Dr. Denise Rizzolo

Rizzolo, research coordinator, to share the perspective of a boy with autism


Premiere StagesHealing Voices OnStage: Caregivers’ Stories, a free evening of theatre highlighting the caregiving experience, on Friday, March 31, will incorporate 19 submissions by personal and professional caregivers.

The project, now in its second year, weaves together short works of prose, poetry and dramatic monologues/scenes into an original theatrical piece.

“Many times caregivers' stories are either never heard or simply never told,” said Rizzolo, a native of Nutley and resident of Westfield.  “Often, people equate or perceive ‘caregiving’ as being a burden, when for many it is just the opposite.  Many caregivers become increasingly inspired by helping another loved one.  They set goals and make achievements they never imagined through the strength they gain from devoting time to someone else.  Having caregivers’ stories acted out on stage will give others a different perspective about what caregiving entails.” 

Having the opportunity to share these remarkable stories with an audience and help the writers heal through the power of theatre is extremely rewarding for John J. Wooten, producing artistic director of Premiere Stages at Kean. “I am currently a caregiver for my mom, who is sliding further into dementia," said Wooten. "We are all caregivers one way or another, making the healing impact of the showcase even more powerful.”   

Kean’s own Denise Rizzolo, Ph.D., contributed Through Our Eyes, and Through His Eyes, a piece told from the point of view of a boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and exploring how diagnosis shapes his perspective. “It’s about thinking what societal ‘norms’ are, and recognizing that just because someone acts differently doesn't always mean their behavior is that ‘abnormal,’” said Rizzolo. “I think it will give the audience a different look at ASD and [help them to] gain a better understanding of the disorder.”

“Many times caregivers are afraid to tell their stories, specifically if the loved one they care for has any type of mental or psychological illness, and/or developmental disability, because they fear the stigma that may be attached to the diagnosis," Rizzolo added. "A person should not be defined by a disease or diagnosis, nor should they be afraid to discuss it with others because of the fear of what they may think. People tend to think of ‘normal’ as a static fixed point. An important part of caregiving is helping a child feel confident about himself or herself when their ‘normal’ is different."

Premiere Stages, the professional theatre company in residence at Kean University, partnered with Atlantic Health System, Writers Theatre of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance to produce Healing Voices OnStage. “Submissions came from family caregivers, professional caregivers, and those who need care themselves," added Wooten. "The subject matter varied but was always poignant, evoking feelings of tremendous joy and unbearable sorrow.”

Healing Voices OnStage: Caregivers' Stories will be held at 7 p.m. in the Bickford Theatre at Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Rd., Morristown, N.J. Admission and parking is free and open to the public. As seating is limited, reservations are highly recommended; please call (800) 247-9580 or visit to reserve.

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