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Shout and Stomp: Powerhouse Presenters Take the Cygnet Stage to Share, Teach and Learn

American History Theater

We are only a week out from our next workshop, “Shout and Stomp: Addressing Veteran Trauma Through Performing Arts.” We are so excited to be in partnership with Cygnet Theater for this event! We’ve been able to work with fantastic organizations in San Diego to include The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park and The Women’s Museum of California. We are excited to add Cygnet to our growing list of community partners.

The premise of the workshop is to address trauma through the performing arts, with our presenters providing examples from their own lives and the way they’ve used their talents as performers to address and quell the struggles of their own personal lives. Antonio has performed all over the U.S., but we are lucky to have him with us on the Cygnet stage on April 29.

Our first presenter, Antonio TJ Johnson, is a Vietnam Veteran, award winning actor, writer and founder and director for his own organization, The Vagabond Theatre project. Johnson has worked with Cygnet for the last 12 years and was a natural pick for this venture. His presence on the stage is powerful and that power and soul has become an important vehicle for him as he’s addressed his own darkness from his time at war. Johnson will perform some of his work and provide examples of how he channels his creativity and how our attendees can begin to explore, channel and express themselves through some simple exercises.

We will also be joined by Rayna Stohl, who is the Dance Director at Canyon Crest Academy, dancer and licensed therapist. As Stohl said, “I never thought I’d be running a dance program.” Her goals upon moving to San Diego to pursue her Master’s in psychology, work in the eating disorder field, get married and have two kids. She tried to put dance aside, but dancing from the young age of 7 had built something into her that would not let go. As she says, she “followed the signs” to find her way into running the dance program at Canyon Crest Academy in Del Mar. Her background as a therapist and the eight years she spent working in group homes with troubled teens has given her some insights about how dance can heal and strengthen in the midst of struggle. Although she has never worked with veterans or with those who suffer from combat-related mental disorders, she feels this will be a new and rewarding experience!

“When (I) was asked to be a part of this workshop, I was flattered but a wee bit confused! I don’t have personal experience with PTSD, or anything of anyone military related,” said Stohl. “But as I began to think about my life as both a therapist and as a dance teacher, I started to feel pretty damn stoked to take on this new challenge!”

Last but not least we’ll be joined by newcomer Laurissa Rudgers. Rudgers is a new Cal State University San Marcos graduate, with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual and Performing Arts with an emphasis on theater. She will share her own personal story of Military Sexual Trauma at the young age of 18. She will perform a spoken word piece she has written about her experience and share how the performance process helped her to heal and continue to heal.

She has become an activist for women's rights and uses theater as a catalyst for conversation and education, she rarely shares her personal work. The workshop will be the second time Rudgers will perform her piece and she hopes it will help our attendees see the ways in which such pain can be redirected, explored and shared.

“There is no wrong way to create art out of your experiences,” says Rudgers. “It is deeply personal and there is no expectation from a therapist to have a ‘breath-through’ or whatever. It is self-led and you do it at your pace.”

Now, more than ever, we must look at all the different ways in which we can heal our nation’s veterans. We have been a nation at war for a long time and our nation’s military are paying the dearest price for those conflicts. Our Veterans Affairs systems are overloaded and creaking with the need for veteran care. The mental, emotional and even physical scars of war and other military-affiliated traumas can be debilitating and dangerous. American History Theater is proud to join forces with others who are exploring ways to make the world a better place, for our veterans and for everyone.