The Day MaMa Bear Needed A Hug


Phoebe has been coming to A Place To Be for several therapeutic reasons including anxiety and panic attacks. Last summer she took on the role of Mama Bear in our original musical Human Tales. This was her very first acting experience and her first time singing in public ever, and Mama Bear was a lead role with at least 100 lines and multiple songs! During the two-week camp, Phoebe methodically and deliberately learned her lines, music and blocking. Many times during rehearsals, overwhelmed by anxiety or panic, Phoebe couldn’t hold back the tears, and would need to take a break. But no matter how many times that happened, she always came back to the stage more determined than ever, and continued her work as an actress.

At A Place To Be we embrace all our clients with a safety net of love so they can feel free to express themselves and take risks. There is nothing more vulnerable than getting up on stage in front of hundreds of people to act, sing or dance. Our performance-based therapy approach utilizes structure, inclusivity, supportive leaders, trained therapists and a humanistic, person-first approach to directing people with disabilities and challenges. Having a chance to perform and achieve a level of artistic accomplishment motivates our clients, disguises the therapy, and inspires growth and confidence. That our cast members share the stage with others who have diverse challenges and take risks too, helps them to feel less alone, less ‘different’, and more a part of something bigger and beautiful.

On dress-rehearsal night, the cast was in full costume and makeup with an audience of 75 eager guests. The goal was to run thru the whole show without stopping. Mama Bear was to say her lines with wit and humor...not tears. But during the scene Phoebe had an anxiety attack. Acting inside a fairytale, dressed in her fuzzy bear costume, her real-world challenges overtook her and she grew dark and shaky.

“I could see the anxiety building up, so I wasn’t surprised when the tears started to flow,” said Lisa Shaw, Phoebe’s Mom. “Every fiber of me wanted to run up there and hug her, but I knew I couldn’t do that. And through her tears, Phoebe kept singing! She didn’t run off stage or break down. She did the opposite. She closed her eyes and pushed through it! She was supported and loved by her cast mates, who went on with the scene, but placed their arms around her. That’s the power of music therapy and LOVE at A Place To Be!”

Through that powerful love, acceptance and trust, and thanks to the motivation of music and theater, Phoebe executed the entire dress rehearsal without stopping and went on to perform three shows to sold out crowds. Phoebe is now part of The Same Sky Project, our touring company that brings inclusive productions to thousands of local middle school students inspiring them to accept themselves and to give empathy to others who may also be struggling in this world.

See page 6 of our 2018 Annual Report, Music Got Us Here, for more.