From its starring roles to its ensemble, The Penguin Project allows children with differing needs to perform in a live stage production in front of an audience. Each special-needs artist is paired with a mentor of a similar age who guides them through the production from start to finish, helping them to learn lines, dances, songs, and stage blocking. Each artist and their mentor operate as a symbiotic pair throughout the entire process, including appearing on stage together.
“The Penguin Project is a performance that comes from the heart,” said Hickman. “The joy of excitement and confidence that exudes from our special-needs artists as they take the stage and as they get to be the stars is a sight I will never get over. The bonds of camaraderie and support between the artists and their mentors isn’t just for the artists. It is also life-changing for the mentors. It has even changed me as a music director. What makes this a work of the heart is seeing how far the artists come and seeing their reactions as they get all the accolades from the audience and parents cheering them on. I’m so excited to see where the journey will take us this year in addition to seeing what new artists and mentors will join us and be forever changed by this experience.”
Founded by Dr. Andy Morgan, a pediatrician who specializes in the care of children with differing needs and has also been actively involved in community theatre, The Penguin Project began 11 years ago in Peoria, Illinois. Today, the program has been spread to locations across the country, including the South Arkansas Arts Center.
For more information about The Penguin Project, sponsored by Entergy, please call the SAAC office at 870-862-5474 or visit the SAAC at 110 E. 5th Street, El Dorado, Arkansas.