Hats off to Berrie Center patient Cynthia Harris (yes, that Cynthia Harris, from the nineties sitcom Mad About You and the countless other memorable stage, screen and TV roles she has played in a career that has spanned six decades) for leading a group of 10-to-12-year-olds with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in a fun-filled, 60-minute session of improvisation and theatre games.
Improv, Cynthia explained to the group, is “a game of make-believe based upon truth. It is a chance to use our imaginations and be something we are not, perhaps. You may have always wanted to be a teacher or a star athlete and you can be that for the time of the exercise. Think of it as trying on a coat to see if it fits.”
Cynthia led the group in a couple of warm-up exercises (remember the game telephone when you whisper a phrase around in a circle) before the class culminated in short, improvisational skits that had to do with living with diabetes.
It was Cynthia who suggested that the kids use their diabetes in their improv because they each experience diabetes differently. That, said Cynthia, makes for unique stories and therefore interesting improvisational skits.
Cynthia herself started attending theatre class (where she studied dance, speech and improvisation) every Saturday when she was a 12-year-old girl growing up in New York City. She made her Broadway debut in 1963 and hasn’t let anything—including a diagnosis of T1D)—stop her. Today, she continues to perform through The Actors Company Theatre (TACT), which she co-founded in 1992 to give a core group of actors challenging parts in rarely seen plays. In nearly 30 years, she has played dozens of different roles.
“It was really wonderful having Cynthia bring her formidable talents to the Berrie Center,” said her endocrinologist, Co-Director Robin Goland, MD. “In one fell swoop, she helped the children have fun, build confidence and stretch their imaginations. Thank you, Cynthia.”