All the World's A Stage!
Mission:  The Center for Applied Drama and Autism is committed to providing theatre-based opportunities for individuals on the Autism Spectrum, and their communities.  By encouraging individual and collaborative success through drama in an inclusive, safe environment that celebrates diversity and the joy of the creative arts, CADA supports social and emotional well-being, growth and empowerment. 

All the World's A Stage!

Summer Drop In Sessions on Select Saturdays!

by Wendy Duke on 07/01/16

For students who want to keep their skills honed over the summer, we are holding summer drama classes on select Saturdays in July and August.  Classes are open to all ages.  We will be playing our favorite theatre games and working on all our acting skills through improvisation and guided scene work.  If you are one of our regulars, you will be able to drop in at your convenience and not have to worry about missing classes due to your vacation schedule.  For those who are interested in trying out a class before the regular fall sessions begin, this is a great opportunity to experience what we do and meet our teachers and teaching assistants.   Hope to see you on a Saturday this summer!

New Classes this Fall!

by Wendy Duke on 06/23/16

Now that spring session has ended, we are getting ready for our summer camps to begin and hosting another Artz Quest on Sunday, June 26th.  This fall will kick off with our #KnightArts sponsored production of The Glass Menagerie, which will open for a weekend at the centrally located Balch Street Theatre September 8 - 1l.  The following weekend, the production will tour to the four corners of Akron for four free community performances!

Fall classes begin September 24th.  We will be adding three new classes this fall:

Mask Workshop -- learn mask-making and mask-performance techniques. Teens and adults with an interest in visual art and performance art.

First Stage, a drama class for children on the spectrum, ages 4 - 7.  Thursdays from 4 - 5 pm. 

Adult Acting, an acting class for people of all abilities, 18+.  We will be working on individual skills within an ensemble format.  

All classes end with a Final Sharing with families and friends at the end of the tenth session.

People often want to know if a drama class is appropriate for their child.  Speech is not an absolute requirement, but we need to have ways to communicate.  Some of our students are echolalic or have limited speech, and we use drama exercises and techniques to encourage speech and all forms of communication such as reading body language and using pantomime to tell stories.  We find that our classes work really well for children through adults who have an interest in performing and who can take positive direction from the director-teachers.  

Do feel free to contact us to arrange a visit to observe a class or try one out before enrolling.  

Our #KnightArts award fundraiser surpasses expectations!

by Wendy Duke on 05/01/16

On Saturday, April 23rd, the Center for Applied Drama & Autism celebrated Shakespeare’s birth and death day with an Elizabethan feast and Theatre on the Spectrum’s performance of a Shakespearian themed interactive mystery called “Murder Most Foul!” Held in the gorgeous atrium of the AES building (a former Goodrich rubber factory), with an Elizabethan feast catered by Totally Cooked, this event also featured the musical stylings of our minstrel for the evening, Brian Laakso. We are so grateful to AES for donating their space and allowing us to transform it into a glittering great hall filled with mirth and merriment!

For a new start-up non-profit, the thought of hosting our first-ever gala fund-raiser was daunting. As we began to plan the event, we were amazed and excited by the efforts of all those who worked so hard to bring it all together. Thanks to co-chairs Cyndee Snider and Margo Snider, and honorary chair Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, and event committee members Angie Laakso, Connie Williams, Jen Snider and Lysa Mulloy, our event “All the World’s a Stage” was a resounding success! We sold out all event tickets and our auction items brought in far more than we had hoped for — we are so pleased to share that we more than matched our #KnightFoundation Arts Challenge grant in one very special evening!  

We could not have reached our goals without the most welcome contributions from Acme Family Foundation, Gertrude F. Orr Trust Advised Fund of Akron Community Foundation, and OMNOVA Solutions Foundation, Sherri and  Patrick Walsh, Guy and Renee Pipitone, Anthony and Patricia Gerak, Todd Valendza and Shelli Allio.  Additionally, we would like to thank the dozens of friends, businesses and organizations who donated items for our auction including United Disability Services, Musical Theatre Project, Kirbe's, Akron Symphony Orchestra, World Series of Golf, local artists Allison Rich and Susan Yingling, Aqueduct Brewing, Walt Disney World, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Browns, Indians, Pepsi, Cooper Tires, Step2.

CADA Co-founder, Laura Valendza greeted our guests, including local philanthropists Sophie and Steve Albrecht; Executive Director of Ardmore, Yvette Diaz; Deb Lemire, actor at Magical Theatre Company and her daughter Rachel Kunz, student at Antioch College; Laurie Kramer of the Greater Akron Autism Society.  CADA board members in attendance included Paul Magnus, Vice-President for Workforce Development at Mature Services; Veronica Cook-Euell, Supplier Diversity Program Manager, Kent State University, Maria Maisto, Board Officer New Faculty Majority; and Todd Snider, Vice President Business Director at Geometry Global

At the same time, CADA’s other co-founder Wendy Duke was working with the company of young actors presenting the mystery that took place throughout the event.  Theatre on the Spectrum is a neuro-diverse group of local actors and theatre students who volunteer as teaching assistant’s during CADA’s Saturday classes and summer camps. They created and performed the mystery, staying in character for hours as guests tried to figure out “whodunnit!” In the end, only three guests figured out that B-Dot Ryan, playwright and composer, was the guilty party.  The winners received complimentary tickets to Theatre on the Spectrum’s upcoming Akron #KnightArts Challenge winning production of The Glass Menagerie (Through the Prism of Autism) taking place in September of 2016.

Knight Foundation selects CADA for an Akron Arts Challenge Award!

by Wendy Duke on 03/16/16

News Release — Center for Applied Drama & Autism
Contact for media: Angie Laakso
Photos available.

Akron center that combines drama and autism enjoying a growth spurt

Akron, OH, March 22, 2016 — In only its second year of providing theatre classes, workshops and other development opportunities for young people on the autism spectrum, the Akron-based Center for Applied Drama & Autism (CADA) is experiencing a growth spurt this spring with a $12,000 matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Art Challenge, a new studio space, and its first major fundraiser.

CADA will use the Knight Foundation grant to create a production of The Glass Menagerie to tour throughout Akron neighborhoods in September. Young people with autism will work as theatre professionals — on stage and behind the scenes — to mount the play.

In keeping with CADA’s mission to support social and emotional well-being, growth and empowerment for its students, the actors and crew will receive stipends for their work.

“By taking this play on tour, we will bring an excellent theatrical production to the community while also opening doors to conversations about autism,” said Laura Valendza, the co-founder of CADA. Valendza is an actor and an Intervention Specialist at Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts in Akron, as well as a member of the North American Drama Therapy Association. CADA’s other co-founder is K-12 drama instructor Wendy Duke, who created the theatre program at Miller South.

Victoria Rogers, Vice President of the Arts for the Knight Foundation said “The arts are a wonderful prism to explore our challenges, our differences, and to find a path for greater mutual understanding. We look forward to seeing how this production will put the audience in the shoes of those who live on the spectrum and how they respond.”

To raise its own $12,000 to meet the Knight Foundation challenge, CADA is presenting “All the World’s a Stage,” its first major fundraiser, on Saturday, April 23, in the atrium of the AES Campus Building in downtown Akron.

Coinciding with William Shakespeare’s birthday, the event will combine a dinner catered by Totally Cooked, auction, and interactive Shakespearean murder mystery created and performed by CADA’s older students. Autism advocate and Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh is the honorary chair. Tickets are $100 and reservations can be made at

Also this spring, CADA is moving from its original studio space in the Balch Street Fitness Center into a new studio in the basement of the Evans Building at 333 S. Main St. in downtown Akron.

CADA’s spring classes will begin in the new studio on April 9, and rehearsals for The Glass Menagerie will also happen there.

For more information on the Center for Applied Drama and Autism and the “All the World’s a Stage” fundraiser, visit, call 330-569-4565, or e-mail Angie Laakso at

For more information on the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Knight Art Challenge, visit or email Marika Lynch at

CADA is on the move!

by Wendy Duke on 03/10/16

CADA is growing!  We are moving into a new space in the basement of the Evans building in downtown Akron at the corner of S Main and E Exchange! We are so excited to be able to expand our programming.  Check out the new classes and stay tuned for our summer camp schedule!

We'd like to thank #KnightFoundation for supporting our project, The Glass Menagerie (through the prism of autism) #KnightArts is a game-changer for the citizens of Akron!