Convergence Recommends: Le Théâtre Aphasique
By Éva Nkurunziza
Le Théâtre Aphasique is a non-profit created by Anne-Marie Théroux in the 90s. Since its inception, actors from the troupe have performed in front of 27,000 people. The troupe is one of its kind. It all started as a workshop in a rehabilitation hospital in Montreal, and it has continued holding shows all over Quebec and in European countries. The workshops are still available and free to individuals who were diagnosed with aphasia. We discovered this brilliant initiative and we would like to share it with you.
What is Aphasia?
Different types of aphasia. Source: Aphasia.org
Our brain cells need to have a constant supply of oxygen. When brain cells lack oxygenation, they are damaged. That happens when someone suffers from a stroke for example. The cells that are affected and therefore the impairments that the lack of oxygen can lead to are not predictable. If brain cells are damaged in areas of the brain that are responsible for language, it can result in a language disorder called aphasia, of varying degrees of severity. The onset of aphasia can also occur following a traumatic brain injury, a brain tumor or an infection. Two of the most common types of aphasia are Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia. These types of aphasia are named after the brain area that is damaged. Broca’s area is anarea of the brain related to language production and grammar comprehension, and Wernicke’s area is specialized in speech processing. Essentially, Broca’s area participates in the production of language (i.e. speaking and writing) and Wernicke’s area allows you to understand speech through listening . It is important to note that aphasia is not associated with the loss of intellectual capacities.
Recovering from aphasia
Neuroplasticity is one of the most fascinating abilities of the brain. Through this process, the brain can rewire itself throughout our lives. The brain changes as we move through developmental stages but also following brain damage. Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area are precise locations in the brain that have been identified. However, if one of them is damaged, neuroplasticity allows for other parts of the brain to take over their functionality. To date, when aphasia is first diagnosed it is very difficult to determine the course of recovery. It takes a few months to have a better idea of what can be done. Speech and language therapy are highly recommended as a course of action following the onset of aphasia. Some individuals will recover fully and unfortunately others will not. Beyond regaining the ability to produce and understand language, reintegration into society is crucial.
The origin of Le Théâtre Aphasique
Anne-Marie Théroux was a woman who wore many hats. She was a writer, stage director, university professor, speech therapist, philanthropist and most of all she was a visionary. She decided to merge two of her passions, speech therapy and theater. She started a drama workshop in the 90s. She believed that the workshop would be beneficial to those who were on a path to recovery following a diagnosis of aphasia. The goal of the workshop was not only to regain abilities but also to reintegrate society. As you can imagine, not being able to communicate feels isolating. Over the years, the theater has grown. Not only does it help individuals’ Anne-Marie Théroux rehabilitation and reintegration, but it
Source: ThéâtreAphasique.org also entertains and educates the greater public.
The Théâtre Aphasique today
Cover of the production Le Dernier Mot (The Last word)
Video workshop Le Premier Acte (The First Act) workshop.
Isabella Côté took over as the head of the theater in 1996. The non-profit offers workshops that run for 30 weeks each year. There are two types of workshops and they both require little to no experience, only interest is required. The workshops are called the Premier Acte [First Act] workshop and Video workshop. Also, there are currently about 20 members in the troupe. There is one production in progress called Le Dernier Mot [The Last Word]. You can find an excerpt of the play here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09JUvmafeMs. Visit the organization’s website to learn more about their past and current activities. The organization is a non-profit and requires the support from the public. You can learn how to donate on the website and you can also reach out if you would like to donate your time.
Sarah Scott was in her English class reading aloud an excerpt from a play when she lost the ability to articulate properly. At the moment, she did not realize how slurred her speech was. At 18, Scott did not suffer from any speech impediment which made the event worrisome for the rest of the class. It was later determined that Scott’s suffered from an ischemic stroke resulted in Broca’s aphasia. A couple of months after her stroke, she started documented on Youtube her progress over the years. You can find the videos on her mother’s Youtube channel SymphUK. Here is the link to the yearly progress update videos over 9 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aplTvEQ6ew&list=PLRD64ZuOLsLnXJ-eBLPAELJSSUGPErO15
Le Théâtre Aphasique. Available from: https://theatreaphasique.org/
National Aphasia Association. Available from: https://www.aphasia.org/
Osa García, A. When aphasia comes on the scene: The journey and achievements of Le Théâtre
Aphasique. rehabINK. 2019;7. Available from: https://rehabinkmag.com
Scott, J. An 18 year-old with aphasia: Sarah’s Story. International Communication Project, 2017.