Musical Theatre Wellness Center
Health + Wellness
Dedicated to the physical, mental, nutritional, and vocal well-being of musical theatre students, the Wellness Center is a fully realized support system for Musical Theatre students.
Performing arts physical therapist and faculty member Aliza Rudavsky, PT, DPT, PhD, oversees an on-site physical therapy clinic for students in the School of Theatre. The aim of this clinic is to keep performers healthy, pain free, and at their peak performance. The clinic is intended for both preventative and recuperative care.
- Manual physical therapy (soft tissue and joint mobilizations)
- Vocal unloading treatment to maintain optimal performance voice
- Therapeutic exercise
- Movement pattern re-training
- Ergonomic modifications for performances
- Coordination with production staff
- Emphasis on injury prevention and maintenance of peak performance
Performing Arts Clinic will treat:
- Vocal fatigue or discomfort
- Jaw tension
- Breathing difficulties (poor endurance, support, or ribcage stiffness)
- Neck and back pain, instability or stiffness
- Shoulder, hip and other musculoskeletal pain, stiffness or instability
- Faulty posture
- Overuse injuries
Connected to the clinic is Dr. Kiyomi Goto, a family medicine and sports medicine physician with an interest in performers. Dr. Goto’s services include injury and illness evaluation as well as ordering of imaging, appropriate treatment, and referrals to specialty care. Recommendations for activity modification and return to activity will be made in consultation with the performer, and she will coordinate care with other healthcare providers involved in the care of the student. We think of her as our “medical liaison” to health care needs of musical theatre students.
For much of their time in classes, rehearsals, and character preparation, our student-artists function within an intense, highly focused mental space analogous to what athletes call “the zone.” They are frequently critiqued in their process to prepare themselves for the extremely high professional expectations in their field. And they know they will be entering an arena so competitive that rejection will be the norm—even a daily occurrence—when auditioning for roles. All of this is enormously taxing mentally and can result in stress and burnout. In addition to this, our students are also going through many of the typical experiences of college students: navigating independence, exploring identities, and forging new relationships and social connections. Psychotherapy can be a safe and welcoming space to explore these struggles, receive support, and learn new skills.
In this component of our Wellness Program, Musical Theatre students are able to confidentially seek consultation, referrals, and treatment for a variety of counseling and psychological services. The psychological services scheduling process is coordinated by Dr. Leann Diederich. Working with Dr. Diederich are Dr. Alissa Yamasaki and Dr. Wes Scala who all provide individual psychotherapy to our students. In addition to the specific work with individual students, our mental health providers are becoming specifically acquainted with our program and career expectations so they can best consult, refer, and provide services to our students.
Nutritionist and Associate Research Professor Kris Clark heads this initiative. The key component is a fueling station, developed over her time as Director of Sports Nutrition for Penn State Athletics. It is a collection of foods available and provided to students throughout their day in order to fully maximize the nutritional health of our students. The goal is to connect nutritional behavior to the training in musical theatre. The fueling station seeks to position students to optimize energy levels before and after workouts, dance classes, rehearsals, and other physically strenuous components of musical theatre training. It provides foods that are rich in nutrient requirements that are supporting the physical exertion the program requires with nutritional preparation and recovery. A secondary component of the fueling station is our Hydration and Recovery Room – specific to the dance classes in Musical Theatre.
Dr. Kris Clark is also available to our students for private or group consultation about all things Nutrition – including cooking on a budget, cooking for the week, and other areas specific to Musical Theatre students.
Though essentially a subset of physical health, vocal health is so crucial to the careers of our students that it deserves separate treatment. Musical theatre students use their voices so strenuously that their vocal cords should be regularly monitored to ensure no damage is being done.
Dr. John Paul Gniady is a laryngologist specializing in the care of singers. We began our relationship with Dr. Gniady in Fall 2019 by providing “scopes” for our musical theatre first year students. This baseline vocal cord imaging will allow our students to know their own vocal cords – making it much easier if care is needed for fatigue or other issues. Along with this imaging, Dr. Gniady will provide education to our students in vocal care for singers and be a resource to us in the specifics of vocal issues for singers.
Meet our Wellness Center Colleagues
Kris Clark, Ph.D., RDN, FACSM
Dr. Kris Clark recently retired as Director of Sports Nutrition for Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics after 26 years in that position. During those years she counseled the over 800 varsity athletes from 26 teams on nutrition issues that ranged from energy needs, eating before and after workouts to recovery strategies and muscle growth. Her work at Penn State led to working with four United States Olympic teams including women’s and men’s soccer, men’s volleyball, and women’s lacrosse. She was the exclusive nutritionist for US Women’s Soccer for ten years.
Kris currently holds an adjunct position in the Kinesiology Department as Associate Research Professor along with managing a private local consulting practice. She is thrilled to be connecting with the Musical Theatre Department as a Sports Nutrition volunteer consultant. After 36 years in clinical practice, working primarily with serious athletes in sports, she is enthusiastic about working with serious athletes in musical theatre!
Dr. Clark has a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences from Penn State, a Masters degree in Health Education and a B.S. degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of WI. Her research interests have included food choices for recreational exercisers and athletes, eating for energy and recovery, dietary supplement use, and muscle growth. Clark, a registered dietitian, is currently on the Board of Directors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, past president of the Practice Group in Sports Nutrition and past president of the Practice Group in Weight Management. She is a Fellow in and past Trustee Member of the American College of Sports Medicine and a Fellow in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She holds a position on the U.S. Olympic Sports Medicine Advisory Board. Clark is a nutrition resource for numerous popular magazines and is regularly quoted in Shape, Self, Real Simple, Readers Digest, Men’s Health, Glamour, and Good Housekeeping.
Leann T. Diederich, Ph.D.
Dr. Diederich received her PhD in Counseling Psychology from Indiana University (Bloomington). She was a Staff Psychologist and Group Therapy Coordinator at the Counseling and Psychological Services at Penn State prior to moving into independent practice in 2014. She is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania, a member of the American Psychological Association, and the Pennsylvania Psychological Association. She has served as a Board Member-at-Large for the Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy (Division 49 of the American Psychological Association). Additionally, Dr. Diederich maintains an active academic focus as an adjunct instructor at the undergraduate level in Human Development and Family Studies and in the doctoral program in Counselor Education at Penn State. She presents nationally on a range of topics, including co-leadership development, multicultural competency in group therapy, and the impact of visible/invisible identities. Her areas of specialization include working with young adults and early career professionals on improving interpersonal relationships, reducing anxiety and depression, and fostering wellness through living a value-driven life.
Alissa Yamasaki, Ph.D.
“Avoidance won’t improve your anxiety, but facing your fears will.”
Anxiety and stress interfere with good relationships, zap energy and take away from the joy of life. My focus is upon the mind-body connection, helping clients, especially those who have already finished basic work in therapy, tackle their anxiety and make desired change in their relationships and daily lives.
As a therapist, my approach is strongly rooted in cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic orientations, with an appreciation for medical complexities. I tend to be direct, open to feedback and willing to enjoy a laugh alongside clients. Clients tell me that I can be tough in a session, but that the work is life-changing and fulfilling.
I earned my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Penn State University (2006), completed internship at Albany Medical Consortium and became licensed in 2008. More recent training was for the provision of insomnia treatment (CBT-I), with Board-certified sleep psychologist, Dr. Julio Mendoza, of Hershey Sleep Research and Treatment Center.
Outside of the therapy room, you’ll find me mentoring our interns, consulting with other providers and small business owners, or just taking time to breathe.
Wes Scala, Ph.D.
“Connection, both with others and with ourselves, is essential to leading a satisfying life.”
Throughout our lives, experiences we have can lead us to feel disconnected in various ways, from our own sense of self and values, important people in our life, and our emotions. This disconnection can result in feelings of loneliness and isolation, lack of motivation, overwhelming anxiety, or uncertainty about who we are and what we want in life and it often leads to unhealthy ways of coping (e.g., emotional eating, focusing too much on work, lack of self-care, etc.). My focus in working with clients is to help them reconnect with themselves, with others, and with their emotions so that they can lead a more satisfying life filled with meaningful relationships and purpose.
My approach to therapy is primarily rooted in a modern psychodynamic orientation and as such, I value the development of a strong therapeutic relationship and meaningful connection with clients. I help clients identify unhealthy patterns occurring in their life, both with others and within themselves, and better understand how these patterns may have developed and how they can be changed. I strive to help clients develop new skills for coping with distress, managing multiple roles (e.g., student-athlete), finding a better balance in life, and connecting more fully with their emotions.
I earned my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Penn State University and completed my internship and post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Penn State University. I enjoy working with adult clients of all ages and from diverse backgrounds who struggle with a variety of concerns including anxiety, depression, interpersonal relationships, and life transitions. I am passionate about working with college-aged students who may be experiencing eating and/or body image concerns, issues related to men and masculinity, and student-athletes. Outside of the office, you can find me enjoying the outdoors and connecting with nature, spending time with family, or reading a good book.
Aliza Rudavsky is a physical therapist and Assistant Teaching Professor at Penn State University. She earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Washington and her Ph.D from the University of Copenhagen. Prior to becoming a physical therapist, Aliza was a professional modern dancer and brings her knowledge of dance and the performing arts into every PT session. She has specialized training in vocal unloading which treats the maladaptive voice cycle in singers and professional voice users. Her research at Penn State involves understanding the relationship between the vocal folds and the pelvic floor muscles. Aliza is thrilled to be involved in the School of Theatre’s Wellness Center and hopes to continue promoting wellness initiatives in the arts.
J.P. Gniady, MD, FACS
John Paul (J.P.) Gniady, MD, FACS – Dr. Gniady was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He attended Louisiana State University for college and medical school and then went on to complete his residency in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Upon completion of his residency, Dr. Gniady travelled to Boston for a year of additional training in Laryngeal Surgery at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital with the world-renowned Dr. Steven Zeitels. Dr. Zeitels is best known for treating famous singers; ranging from The Who’s Roger Daltry, Steve Tyler of Aerosmith, Adele, and numerous operatic stars. He is however best known within the medical community for advancing the science and art of voice preservation and restoration for a variety of both benign and cancerous diseases of the larynx through the development of new surgical instruments and techniques.
Dr. Gniady helps patients with vocal cord paralysis, spasmodic dysphonia, and voice and swallowing disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease. He has recently joined the Penn State team at Hershey Medical Center and will work with us in Musical Theatre after spending years in Sarasota working with professional singers.
Dr. Kiyomi Goto
Dr. Kiyomi Goto is a family medicine doctor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She received her medical degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a fellowship in Sports Medicine at Hershey Medical Center and is now a family medicine specialist in State College.
With Musical Theatre, Dr. Goto will provide on-site evaluation and care of students. Services will include injury and illness evaluation as well as ordering of imaging and appropriate treatment and referrals to specialty care. Recommendations for activity modification and return to activity will be made in consultation with the performer, and with consent, will coordinate care with other healthcare providers involved in the care of the student.