Drama program helps people with disabilities flourish

April 21, 2011 10:00:33 AM PDT
For the past eight years, the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights has given teenagers and adults with developmental disabilities an opportunity to showcase their talent.

Rehearsing since last fall, performers with disabilities are part of Flourish in the Footlights production. The big event is Monday night with "Jack and the Beanstalk."

Artist/director Megan Willhite says these performers take their roles seriously.

"We meet for eight weeks in the fall to do acting techniques," Willhite said. "We meet once a week for an hour and fifteen minutes, and they learn basic acting skills and how to work together as an ensemble.

"Then we take a short break and start back in December for the production phase where they actually get familiar with the story?Then we do the improvised scenes to write the script."

Then comes rehearsal for the one-night performance.

This year there are 13 actors who range in age from 16-to-40.

"I'm very fortunate that I have four really great assistant directors," said Willhite. "They're there all the time...we have an occupational therapist and a special educator from Arlington Pediatric Therapy, and then we have an assistant director on the Metropolis side who team directs with me."

Both of the Buchberger's adult children are part of Flourish in the Footlights. It has made a difference for the Buchberger's family.

"Kevin was usually very quiet, and people hardly know that he can talk, but he has the lead role this year and he's in every single scene, and especially if I call him 'Jack' instead of Kevin, you can really get him to speak loud and clear now," said Chris Buchberger.

"I love how I can watch them grow every year," Willhite said, "and it's not just because they're becoming talented performers, but I can see some of the skills we work on are improving their social skills and their communication skills."

Flourish in the Footlights' performance is Monday April 25 at 7 p.m. at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. The address is 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, Ill. Tickets are $8. For more information go to www.metropolisarts.com.

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