OUR MISSION is to help people with chronic conditions form a flourishing relationship with their health through the performing arts.

We serve people with chronic health conditions, caregivers, and healthcare providers. 

Our programs offer transformative experiences through the performing arts, enlivening people’s imaginations and allowing for feeling, dialogue and discovery to emerge. By framing disease as a teacher rather than an enemy and engaging in active, deep listening, our work enables people to uncover their own lessons and find meaning in their struggles.

 Theater – Song – Puppetry – Clown – Magic – Poetry – Music – Dance

Today, we have a growing series of diabetes programs.
In the future, we will expand to other chronic illness/wellness spaces.

Guiding Principles

    • Emotional health is vital for physical health.
    • Integrity through transparency 
    • Art is a research practice 
    • Access to Health Care is a human right and social good to be available to all on equal terms
    • Creative expression is vital for empowerment and democracy.
    • To feel pain is to be human. To feel joy is to be human. Health Care is a Human Story.
    • Disease is a teacher, not an enemy.

Who We Are

Marina Tsaplina

Founder and Creative Director

Marina is the founder and catalyst of THE BETES. She is a puppeteer, clown, kinesthetic performing artist, and patient advocate. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes since she was two years old, has known severe depression, and is passionate about bringing her artistic vision to the new emerging fields of the Medical Humanities and Narrative Medicine.

She is currently a Scholar in the Medical Humanities at the Penn State College of Medicine – Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine.

” BETES work is focused exclusively on the subjective lived experience of chronic illness. We develop methods and create opportunities for people to heal while living with invisible chronic conditions  through theatrical engagements, discussions, and group exercises. Our work exists in-concert with the incredible advances of biomedicine.

Dr. Kenneth Gorfinkle, Ph.D

VP of Programs; Scientific Director

Ken brings BETES over 30 years expertise as a clinical psychologist working in medical psychology to lower the barriers between people with chronic and acute illness and their ability to enjoy a full, vigorous and healthy life.

“Creative artistic representation awakens the mind and body to alternate perspectives in ways that talk therapy cannot.

My passion/mission has been and is to share my knowledge and experience of behavioral science, and of the phenomenological experience of chronic illness with care givers.   In doing so, I nurture their ability to care for the whole patient, in the full context within which he or she lives. THE BETES accomplishes this mission by a different, more direct route. For me, it’s an ideal partnership.”



Deborah Kaufmann

Director of Programs; Artistic Director and Producer

Deborah has passionately worked in Arts in Healthcare for almost 30 years. She was a founding member of Big Apple Circus Clown Care, the world’s first professional hospital clowning program, and today she continues to perform for hospitalized children and their caregivers as Dr. Dibble with Healthy Humor. She auditions, trains and oversees the ongoing professional development of the performing artists of Healthy Humor.

Deborah is the recipient of the Raoul Wollenberg Humanitarian Award for her work with Clown Care. She creates and teaches workshops that share the skills of an interactive performer (i.e. authentic connection, active listening, reading emotional cues) with medical professionals and corporate clients.

Sarah Vedomske

Social Media Manager

Sarah Vedomske is a writer residing in Richmond, Virginia. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Virginia Commonwealth University, and will begin post-graduate studies in the field of Narrative Medicine in Fall 2017. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2005, and has been an online patient advocate and chronic illness blogger since 2014 at CoffeeandInsulin.com

“As a writer, I’ve found no deeper solace or empowerment in my experience living with Type 1 diabetes than I have through storytelling. Art allows us to recognize each other, and to recognize ourselves. It dares us, in community, to grow. I believe so deeply in mission of THE BETES because we, as patients and practitioners, as loved ones and advocates, desperately need what BETES embodies: communication that is creative, compassionate, and most of all, connective.”

Ana Bess Moyer Bell

Drama Therapy Consultant

Ana Bess received her MA in Drama Therapy from New York University. Her masters thesis used arts-based-research to examine how therapeutic theatre helps create social change in US communities ravaged by the current opioid epidemic. 

From 2013-2014 she volunteered in San Quentin Prison where she co-facilitated group talk therapy with inmates. She worked for the Siren Theatre Project in Oakland, CA as the community liaison; she helped create, write, and perform local women’s issues.

She is trained in Playback Theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed, Method Acting, and Restorative Justice facilitation. She deeply believes in the importance of storytelling and community for healing.

Boudewijn Bertsch

Program Consultant

Educated in the Netherlands and Japan as a business economist, over the past 25 years Boudewijn has worked with executives from companies such as AstraZeneca, Microsoft, Motorola and Nike. 

The focus of Boudewijn’s work is to support people in bringing out the best in themselves and others. Using the latest insights from such diverse fields as neuroscience, somatics, music, positive psychology, anthropology, biology, economics and management, Boudewijn opens executives’ minds to a powerful practice of leadership and facilitates their skills and ability to embody it.

“I love the work of [THE BETES], because by giving people an experience, you do justice to their own world, because they receive the experience and then something happens that is profoundly personal, bringing that out in your audience in a very powerful way

That makes BETES approach not just fun, deep and impactful, but above all inclusive.”

Why We Do It

By embracing our experiences, understanding our own stories, and sharing them in a supportive, creative and exciting community, we can help make the scariest topics accessible, our heaviest burdens lighter, our loneliness, fears and dreams dance together in an act of transformation. 

By focusing on the human side of care, we can build a healthy, empowered community of people who live with invisible burdens.

We shine the spot light on our strength and fragility through the power of community, creativity, expression, and story.

Health Care is a Human Story.

What People Are Saying

By advocating the idea that being physically well also means nurturing the person inside of the sick body, I have a better understanding of what it means to be truly well. The Betes has encouraged me to personify and dialogue with my disease. In doing so, “the beast” AKA my diabetes, feels less scary and more manageable. And, when my diabetes feels manageable, I often find that it is.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat with my betes puppet and talked to it or made it act like an a******. That alone has helped make it less of a scary monster.

As a psychologist, I instinctively use metaphor to enable patients to see their situation from a new perspective. However I am largely limited to what I can convey with language alone.  THE BETES creates a platform and a method for using dynamic visual, dramatic and experiential metaphors that would be difficult to recreate in a traditional clinical setting.  We are not an alternative to straight therapy, however I believe that we can complement and enhance much of the care that people receive in their routine care.

My experience of The Betes has been extremely rewarding. When I was diagnosed with T1D in May 2013 at the age of 26, my world was turned on its head. At the time, I didn’t know anyone with Type 1 who could relate to what I was going through day to day and I felt very alone… It turns out, I not only got community, and a great friend, but The Betes Organization has given me a creative outlet to do something positive and of purpose with my disease and my skills, something I would never have imagined to gain when I got my very own stupid beast.

Your workshop was awesome! I could so relate to it as a parent. My daughter also loved the one you did for the kids! You made the parents cry, you made the children laugh. Thank you.

I haven’t seen something like [THE BETES] before. As both a person in the healthcare community and a person with diabetes, it’s a huge interest of mine to help to promote and develop new tools for education. I see very unique educational opportunities here for patients, family members, healthcare providers, and the general public.

THE BETES has developed a mechanism to build empathy.