On Stage Performance Helps Hope Students

Oct 1, 2014 | Hope in the News

Performing on stage can help students build confidence and improve group social skills. At Hope, we believe it’s important to provide young people with all the opportunities they need to be successful as they grow into productive adults.
In keeping with that mission, auditions recently wrapped up for Hope’s third annual musical—Disney’s Aladdin Jr.—and rehearsals will begin later this fall. Students previously performed Disney productions of The Little Mermaid Jr. and Beauty and the Beast Jr. However, this year’s musical will seek more student participation as each classroom will select a prince to appear in the production and all students are encouraged to take part in the “Prince Ali” parade through the aisles in the audience.
The musical is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, and Friday, April 17, in the gym at the Hope campus in Springfield.
“The children do an amazing job. They rise above all of our expectations when they’re involved,” said Karen Herzel, Hope music therapist.
About 50 percent of the students selected for this year’s musical have participated in previous Hope productions, Herzel added.
In preparation for the upcoming play, Hope students were treated to a Windy City Players’ performance of Aladdin Thursday, Sept. 18, in the gym of the Hope campus.
Audience participation was a key part of the national touring company’s 45-minute performance and students showed off some impromptu acting skills to the amazement of their peers and staff members. During one portion of the play, a group of students were called on stage as part of an entourage to wave hand fans. In later scenes, one student played an assistant and another dazzled the audience as a salesman.
“Our students have an ability to gain confidence that helps them flourish in the areas we talk about—independence, growth and joy,” said Hope Assistant Principal Barbi Ballard.
The visit from the acting group also served as important role models, Ballard added.
The three actors—Katie Mancuso, Jack Dwyer and Patty Malaney—played multiple roles for the Ottawa, IL-based troupe during the story about a commoner who seeks out a genie to make a princess fall in love with him. However, he is turned away by her greed and eventually falls for his best friend Fathima.
The performers acted in front of two set panels designed to show a city and a palace. After the show, students had the opportunity to ask the cast questions.
“The fact that just one person’s life can be changed by one show is really wonderful,” said actress Katie Mancuso, who played the roles of the trickster and the genie.
A day after that show visited the Hope campus, a group of students traveled to Decatur, IL, to enjoy a play that accommodates people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Planet of the Perfectly Awful People was presented Friday, Sept. 19, by the Golden K (Kiwanis) and Millikin University College of Arts’ Department of Theatre and Dance. During the 50-minute show, the lights were turned on in the theater and loud sounds were removed from the performance to make the play more pleasing to guests with sensory issues.
“Having a performance that is sensory-friendly allows audience members to enjoy a live performance of theatre in a welcoming and comfortable environment,” said Denise Myers, play director and theatre professor. “The actors learn how to accommodate and to include all audience members as part of the theatrical experience.”
The play tells the story of Abbie Anderson, the first girl into outer space, and her adventures after her rocket ship crashes on a strange planet of mean people. In the end, students learned about the importance of treating one another with kindness and respect.

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