Meet Kathryn

A love for the arts and empowerment is the driving force behind Positive Action Community Theatre


That's what we continue to do–find ways to empower people with autism through theater
A couple staands in front of a camera smiling

For Kathryn, the performing arts have always been an outlet since she was a child. When she was seven, she started performing classical music.  

“I've always kind of been performing. Sometimes it's difficult, sometimes it's wonderful,” she says.  

In 2008, inspired by her enduring passion for the transformative potential of the arts, Kathryn co-founded Positive Action Community Theatre. This nonprofit organization offers free improv workshops, harnessing the empowering nature of performances. 

As the workshops progressed, parents of children with autism began attending, and a profound connection was forged.  

"Improv is truly a perfect fit for autism. As it provides continuous opportunities for practicing and observing spontaneous social interaction,” Kathryn says.  

Kathryn discovered a shared sense of belonging with the autistic participants. “I know what it feels like to be talented but shy. And a lot of the people that we work with are shy. But getting through that level of fear and bringing yourself out in front of other people in an authentic way is important,” she explained.  

The autistic community provided a natural fit for Kathryn's mission of empowering people through theater. Through the utilization of dance and theater training, the Encinitas nonprofit fosters connections among individuals with autism, empowering them to navigate social interactions while nurturing their appreciation for the arts. 

Several parents of autistic participants became involved with the organization's board, with one parent even contributing to curriculum development and joining the teaching staff. This collaborative partnership evolved naturally over time. “I kind of see this organization like a tree that's just been deepening its roots and sprouting new buds and definitely alive,” she says.  

Alongside the ongoing workshops, the group is currently producing an original musical this year. Set in an enchanted forest, the production features a blend of classical and original music. The performance will be recorded and performed live. The show will be ready by late spring. While it is busy, Kathyrn says the enchanted forest is a lot of fun.  

We caught up with Kathyn to find out a bit more about the organization:  

A group of 5 students does improv

Did you have much experience with the autism community before? 

I didn't really have the experience with the autism community, except that my daughter when she was five, met a little boy with autism. They became fast friends, and we became family friends. I had that experience of watching him grow up. Everybody is different with autism. And, our mission before we started working with this population was to empower people. That's what we continue to do: find ways to empower people with autism through theater.”  

A improv class

What is something a small community theater can do to be more inclusive?

Mention on the outreach materials that they welcome people of all abilities. Art is imperfect and a surprise.  

We call this series Community Ally. What does being an autism ally mean to you? 

It means we respect everyone as our equal. We want to give them opportunities. Employment is often a challenge for people with autism. So, we employ four people with autism as teachers and aides and give them professional training and what they need to live a self-determined life.  

If you could tell like the world, one thing about autism, what would it be? 

Everybody has their quirks and challenges, and this is just something that makes us a rich community. 

If you could star in any play or musical, what would it be and why? 

The Greatest Showman. Because it's just all about all different kinds of people coming together and sharing what they have, and it has that song that everyone knows and that's like sticks in your head. 

Learn more about Positive Action Community Theatre.

The story shared above represents the experience, views and perspectives of the individual(s) highlighted. We aim to share stories across the spectrum and throughout the life span, but the information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals.