Educational Theatre

The Educational Theatre group at Loma Linda University uses art and theatre to engage and encourage a culture of whole health for children and adults. This innovative approach is used to ultimately create and promote resilient communities.

Who we are

The Educational Theatre offers interactive and inspiring performances for children and adults. Each piece encourages healthy eating, physical activity, positive mindset and spiritual well-being.

Our interactive, educational performances create friendly environments where children, families and communities can learn, ask hard questions, and share their struggles with each other.

We actively engage in cutting edge research around the use of arts and theatre to improve physical, mental and spiritual health. We are especially interested in improving the health of underserved and minority populations living with chronic diseases.

Our philosophy

Theatre has the power to deeply affect a person and influence their beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

The increasing rate of chronic disease in the U.S. has become an epidemic for children and adults. For this reason, there is a critical need for innovative approaches to educate individuals that engage communities and encourage healthier lifestyles. 

Recognized world-wide, the Educational Theatre at Loma Linda University Health introduces communities to healthy lifestyle principles through the medium of theatre. 

The Loma Linda Seventh-Day Adventist community has been recognized for having some of the oldest living members in the country, with a significant number living over 100 years of age.

This longevity has been attributed to healthy lifestyle practices among many of its members including many seniors who have been practicing these principles their entire lives.

Combining the principles and practices of Loma Linda University Health, educational theatre has the power to significantly impact healthy behavioral and lifestyle changes among children and adults.

Our team

Our theatrical team is made up of pediatricians, psychologists, health educators, epidemiologists and trained actors. This wealth of experience enriches the educational theatre approach to engaging communities and encouraging healthier lifestyles.

Rhonda Spencer-Hwang, DrPH, MPH

Rhonda Spencer-Hwang, DrPH, MPH

Executive Director

More about Rhonda

Rhonda has a doctoral degree in public health, and has practical and research experience in the area of environment and human health for over 10 years. She has a broad, multidisciplinary background including epidemiology, statistics, health education and arts. Her research focus in the social, environmental and biological interrelations of initiation of chronic disease early in life, and the use of arts and theatre as a way to promote whole health. Currently, Rhonda is the director of the Loma Linda University Asthma Program, Educational Theatre at Loma Linda University, and the Children’s Whole Health Initiative.  She is also a research and evaluation consultant for the Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Marco Pasco-Rubio, MPH(c)

Marco Pasco-Rubio, MPH(c)

Epidemiologist

More about Marco

Marco is an epidemiologist skilled in mixed methods research, health education components and educational theatre. He counts with years of experience in health education programs targeting minority young teenagers and young adults. At the same time, his analytical expertise has contributed to clinical and non-clinical studies through data management and analysis utilizing different software and methods. Currently, Marco is the lead epidemiologist overseeing data management, collection and analysis for the Loma Linda University Asthma Program, Educational Theatre Program and the Children Whole Health Initiative.

Johanny Valladares, MBA

Johanny Valladares, MBA

Program Manager

More about Johanny

Johanny is a health administration specialist with a broad background in theatre, photography, marketing, management and community health. Her expertise has provided support in the implementation of community health programs targeting underserved/minority communities. She has also provided training on arts and theatre for over 6 years. Currently, Johanny is the program manager of the Loma Linda University Asthma Program, Educational Theatre of Loma Linda University, and the Children’s Whole Health Initiative.

Wonha Kim, MD, MPH

Wonha Kim, MD, MPH

Pediatrician

More about Wonha

Wonha is a pediatrician and preventive medicine physician with a broad background in policy, literature, pediatrics, preventive medicine, public health and global health. She obtained her medical degrees and training at Johns Hopkins and is board certified in both Pediatrics and Public Health/General Preventive Medicine. She currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine at the School of Medicine, Assistant Professor for the School of Public Health, Associate Director for the Institute for Health Policy and Leadership, and consultant for the Educational Theatre Program at Loma Linda University.

Xochitl A. Torres, MPH

Xochitl A. Torres, MPH

Lead Health Educator

More about Xochitl

Xochitl is a health educator and research scientist with a broad background in community health, humanitarian international work and business. Her health education research focus has applied mixed-method techniques to understand social and biological interplay factors that support health in minority/underserved populations to create health promotion interventions. Through her work as a Lead Health Educator she has been instrumental in producing programs on emergency preparedness and community resilience, whole health prevention and management of chronic disease, and educational theatre and arts for young children and adolescents. Currently, she is the Lead Health educator for the Loma Linda University Asthma Program and the Educational Theatre of Loma Linda University; and a co-investigator for the Children’s Whole Health Initiative at Loma Linda University.

Peter Gleason, PhD

Peter Gleason, PhD

Psychologist

More about Peter

Peter has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and distinguished himself through years of clinical work in a variety of settings, including substance abuse hospitals, non-public special education schools, the LLU Children’s Hospital, neuropsychological assessment clinics, and others. Peter’s research interests include high-risk behaviors and adverse childhood experiences, and learning. In the classroom, Peter teaches on topics including behavior, research methods, communication and leadership

Services

1. Live Theatrical Productions

For children
Puppet shows and theatrical productions on the following topics:
  • healthy eating
  • physical activity
  • depression
  • nature and environment
For teens
Theatrical plays on the following topics:
  • healthy eating
  • physical activity
  • depression
For adults
Theatrical plays for families on the following topics:
  • healthy eating
  • physical activity
  • depression
  • benefits of exposure to nature and the environment
  • prevention and management of chronic disease i.e. asthma, diabetes, obesity

2. Seminars & Lectures

Educational, faith based, community or any other organizations who want to learn about the impact educational theatre program brings to children and families.

3. Training & workshops on whole health promotion

Any organization who wants to start their own educational theatrical program to promote healthy living for children and families.

4. Community engagement & participation for research

Our theatrical productions can help promote research study participation, especially among minority, hard-to-reach populations.

For more information about our services contact Johanny Valladares, Program Manager at  jvalladares@llu.edu or (909) 558-4000 Ext. 88714

Research

Ancient societies including the Greeks and Romans valued arts and saw it as an essential part of any student’s education.

Since then, Educational Theatre has been used in a variety of communities in a number of colorful ways. From simple shows about hand washing to describing the effects and management of chronic conditions. In the process, we have learned how theatre strengthens the appeal of health messages, influences beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and encourages individuals to take action in their communities.

Our team also promotes research participation among minority, underserved, and low-income populations. One of these studies, the Environmental Railyard Research Impacting Community Health (ENRRICH) project, made use of educational theatre as both a teaching and recruitment tool for health screenings among a highly minority based population.

There is an urgent need for innovative educational methods to improve the lives of both children and adults living with chronic diseases.  The Educational Theatre Program takes a whole health approach to address and improve the condition and management of chronic diseases in children and adults.

“Thank you for an informational play that helped me a lot since I have asthma and my boy is experiencing asthma symptoms.” – Mother in Riverside, CA

Publications

Contact us

14 + 12 =

Our program offers internship opportunities for Arts, and Public Health students interested in the promotion of health through arts.

Email: educationaltheatre@llu.edu

Phone: (909) 558-4000 Ext. 88714 Johanny Valladares

We welcome interested and enthusiastic internship applicants to contact Johanny Valladares at jvalladares@llu.edu

If you would like to volunteer with our program, please send an email to Marco Pasco at mpascorubio@llu.edu