Box office is open for the upcoming Penguin Project’s production of “High School Musical, Jr”. Sponsored by Entergy, the production runs February 2 at 7pm and February 3 at 10am and 2pm. Ticket cost for all performances is $5. ONLINE BOX OFFICE

“High School Musical, Jr.” tells the story of the students of “East High” and how they must deal with issues of love, friends and family, all while balancing their classes and extracurricular activities. The production is under the direction of Lynn Gunter with Assistant/Music Director Cassie Hickman who have produced and directed the last three Penguin Project productions.

“This show is the perfect fit for our Penguin actors and mentors. It’s all about breaking outside of the box that people put us in and being able to soar and fly outside those parameters. Our artists and mentors are doing just that! As one of the songs in the musical states, ‘There’s not a star in heaven that they can’t reach.’ You don’t want to miss watching our Penguins ‘breaking free, to be all that they can be’,” said Hickman.

Cliques rule at East High. The jocks, the brainiacs, the cheerleaders and the thespians all have their own place. Breaking free of those groups is not the norm until East High’s basketball team captain, Troy Bolton (Will Colvin/Gideon Moncrief) and brainiac newcomer, Gabriella Montez, (Lily Langston/Lexi Louden) meet. They challenge the status quo by wanting to be a jock/brainiac and a thespian. Removing those separations is not acceptable to thespian president, Sharpay, (Analee Sanchez/Avery Hall) and her sister, Ryan (Zoe Pyle). The war of the cliques ensues as each group picks different sides. What will happen when the rebels break out of the mold set by the cliques? Will they realize that they are all in this together?

Braniacs Martha (Alie Bethany/Isabella Emadi) and James (Ethan Parks/Maryana Woolen) are joined on stage by their brainiac sidekicks played by Ian Allgood, Ellery Palculict, Logan Brown, Bella Johnson, Sydney Patterson, and Vivian Kriehn. The Basketball team, coached by Coach Bolton (Preston Huitt) and led by team captain Troy Bolton also includes Zeke (Ja’Keyson Bell) and Chad (Jeb Gatewood/Lillian Rosser) along with other teammates played by Timothy Hogue, Layla Spenser, and Sam Jones.

The Cheerleaders are led by Taylor (Zoe McIntosh/Maria Covera), Cyndra (Braelyn Allen), and Susan (Chapel Johnson/Caroline Kennedy) as they cheer alongside the other cheerleaders played by Avery Kate, Eleanor Kriehn, Raven Lumsey, and Lena Rae Pagan. The Thespians are under the direction of Mrs. Darbus (Tiffanie Duke).

“I wish you could see the special needs actor who comes into rehearsal excited just to be here…or the one who squeals so loud with happiness because she is here…or the one who cannot speak but gives his whole body to the rehearsal…or the one who is so excited about rehearsals that he talks about it with his teachers every day…or the one who suffers with a lot of body pain but does everything to be able to rehearse…or the mentor who has a tough situation but doesn’t bat an eye. Get your tickets to their show. They look forward to showing you all of their hard work! I’m so privileged and honored to be with them. They are amazing,” said Gunter

The Penguin Project allows children with differing needs to perform in a live stage production. Artists with a disability are paired with a mentor of a similar age who guides them through the production from start to finish. Each artist and their mentor operates as a symbiotic pair throughout the entire process, including appearing on stage together.

Started 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 19 years ago in Peoria, Illinois. Today, the program has been spread to 53 locations across the country, including the South Arkansas Arts Center.  For more information, visit the The Penguin Project.