Alexander Johnson

Mentor: Dr. Charlie Mitchell
College of Fine Arts
"Theatre is the art of basic human play: the relationship between imagination and reality sets the stage, the actors play, and the audience relate to the human experience. I found comfort in the process of imagination. I hid in the suspension of disbelief, the barrier between theatre and reality, and failed to connect the process of theatre to my own process of growth. Through an internship with the Behavioral Analysis Research Clinic I discovered another passion, beyond theatre, for working with children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It was there I faced the reality of this still-mysterious disorder. One out of every one hundred and sixty-six births result in ASD, yet there is still no known cause or explanation as to why it leaves those effected with difficulties in speech, language, and communication. Depending on the severity, some people with ASD may completely lack any repertoire of social skills (Wolf, 2005). No longer should society look at those effected with ASD and perpetuate the stigma of their disability, but instead ask themselves how they be an advocate of their greater future. Then I had an epiphany. A gap bridged between the imagination of theatre and its applied reality. By dropping the veil of my perceived suspension of disbelief I was able to realize a system in which my passions of theatre and applied behavioral analysis intertwined into functional research for the advancement of the self. The stage was not confined by walls, the audience no longer limited to their seats, and the actors could be anyone; even a young child with ASD."


Theatre; Psychology



Research Interests

  • Applied Theatre
  • Behavioral Analysis
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Academic Awards

  • UF University Scholars Program
  • Ethel Ingraham Scholarship


  • Florida Players
  • Arts in Medicine


  • Behavioral Analysis Research Clinic

Hobbies and Interests

  • Theatre
  • Working with Children
  • Football
  • Guitar

Research Description

Social Skill Training through Generalized Role Play
My goal is to take effected youth with ASD and address their deficits in social skills by highlighting their inherent strengths. Using theatre I will expand on their creativity through role-playing, customs, masks, improvisation, classical language, anything that will elicit a positive social-response. Every case will be different. After probing for their preferred stimulus I will then implement a specialized program for each participant. The use of applied behavior analysis allows the project to become greater than a social experiment on art therapy. Implementing behavior modification principals allows for the collection of quantifiable data in which I can then test for control over the stimulus and observe the relationship between the repertoire of social-skills and the theatre based programs.