SAAC was recently chosen as a replication site for The Penguin Project, a program whose primary purpose is to give “artists” with disabilities a stage and theatre performance experience along with their “mentors”, who shadow and help them throughout the rehearsals and during the play production. To get involved in this amazing project, please plan to attend an informational meeting on Saturday, September 24, at 4pm in the Callaway Theater about SAAC’s premier Penguin Project production of “Aladdin, Jr.” Join the SAAC for the Penguin Project informational meeting and get ready to experience something that will change your life and help others to fulfill their dreams.

The Penguin Project will produce Disney’s “Aladdin, Jr” with a cast of young people with disabilities as well as young people without disabilities to “mentor” the new actors and actresses during rehearsals and on stage. If you know a young person between the ages of 10 and 22 with a disability that has an “itch” to perform, or if you know someone who would be interested in being a “mentor”, please plan to attend this very important meeting. “Artists” with cognitive, learning, motor, hearing and visual impairments, genetic disorders and neurological disorders are all encouraged to participate. Parents of disabled students will also need to be present at the meeting.

El Dorado’s first Penguin Project production will be directed by Gary Hall and Darrin Riley. Show dates are set for Feb. 17, 18 and 19, 2017. Rehearsals will begin on October 6 from 3:30-5:00. The directors will use a screening process based on interest, general abilities and communication skills to select the cast, rather than auditions. There will also be a need for backstage helpers.

The production crew for “Aladdin Jr.” will include Lynn Gunter, Mentor Coordinator; Bekah Gunter, Choreographer; Set Construction/Stage Manager, Paul Choate; Lighting/Sound, Justin Howard; Costumes, Del Gates; Scenic Artists, Jorge and Maria Villegas; and Cast Facilitator, Suzanne Bledsoe, SLP.

The Penguin Project was conceived by Dr. Andrew Morgan, Professor Emeritus of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. He has been the primary medical specialist for children with special needs in central Illinois for over 30 years and has also been an active participant in live theatre since he was in high school. Through his professional contact with his patients and their families, he recognized that children with special needs and their families are often isolated and have limited opportunities to participate in community activities, especially when programs need to make accommodations for special challenges. He also realized that participation in the performing arts has specific therapeutic value by enhancing socialization, communication skills and self-esteem. There are currently seven replication sites around the country, with new ones being added each year. Each program has duplicated the success of the original.

The Penguin Project informational meeting is scheduled at SAAC for Saturday, September 24, at 4pm in the Callaway Theater. Don’t miss this opportunity to change your life as well as someone else’s.

The Penguin Project is being sponsored in El Dorado by The Simmons First Foundation and Pat Callaway with contributions by Mary Jo Oliver. Thank you to our supporters!!!