As an activist and a trauma survivor, Emily Aviles ’19 is always looking for new ways to find healing.
When she first came to Hamilton, she planned to major in creative writing, but everything changed after she took her first theatre class.
“At first, writing was my only outlet for the feelings and experiences that I couldn’t vocalize,” she said. “But when I found theatre, it was like a whole new way of thinking. It helped me build the social and developmental skills that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been exposed to that kind of environment. It was a special kind of healing—being silly with people, being vulnerable, creating something that has value.”
With her Emerson project “How to Create Theatre For and With Trauma Survivors,” Aviles hopes to offer that same experience to other students. “I want to create a space in theatre where survivors can feel safe and comfortable, where we do our best to mitigate triggers for anyone, no matter what their past experiences are,” she said.
Hometown: South Windsor, Conn.
High School: South Windsor High School
Under the guidance of Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Sara Walsh, Aviles is researching the use of therapeutic theatre strategies to promote healing. Using resources on psychology, therapy, theatre and social justice, Aviles is putting together a guide for creating trauma-informed theatre.
In addition to her involvement with the theatre program, Aviles is passionate about activism and survivor advocacy on campus. As a member of Policy Advisors for Sexual Assault (PASA), she drew upon her own experiences with campus sexual assault and other trauma as an inspiration for the project.
For her final year at Hamilton, Aviles plans to integrate this research into her thesis. She hopes to one day work as a social worker or counselor to further explore the different strategies of using theater as a catalyst for healing.
“The theatre itself doesn’t have to address the trauma or act as an advocate for survivors at all,” said Aviles. “It’s still a force for healing. It still has the potential to break down those barriers for people even when they’re experienced horrible things. I think it’s genuinely something that could save people’s lives.”