Tom Sawyer: Theatrical Inclusion
What better way to break down barriers than through a main stage show!
According to a recent report by the [wikipop]Centers for Disease Control[/wikipop] (CDC), 12% of school-integrated youngsters, unfortunately, experience activity limitations due to physiological conditions. And, as I conveyed in an earlier column, the children, overall, lack access to opportunities that can unveil untold, hidden talents and interests. Variety St. Louis proved this fact unacceptable.
Bravo! to Saint Louis’ Variety Children’s Charity’s Executive Director and Tom Sawyer Producer, Jan Albus, and her remarkable, multitasking staff members; skilled directors and choreographers; and the boundlessly energetic cast, who brought the amazing, professional production of Tom Sawyer to the Touhill Theatre for our wonder and enjoyment. Participating in the unique theatrical experiences allowed Variety Kids to show-off their strengths and exercise their creativity as characters in a full-scale, Broadway production offered to the general public. The singing and dancing performances handily brought audiences in on the fun, while making them aware of the unique talents of youngsters with a full spectrum of demonstrated abilities.
The [wikipop search=”The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (musical)”]former Broadway show[/wikipop] was designed by Jan and showbiz professionals to display the integration of amazing talents of young people representing all-encompassing ranges of ages and abilities. Driven by the creative energy and shared vision of its Board, Variety St. Louis has now placed itself among dynamic, innovative organizations achieving theatrical arts experiences for youngsters who otherwise are not considered for traditional, acting roles.
The performance cast devoted tremendous amounts of time and talent that developed rewards of teamwork, responsibility, time-management, and organizational skills, not to mention gains of positive self-image and stronger self-esteem. Through the building of robust, healthy friendships, and via celebrating differences, each Variety child and teen teamed up (1:1) with a typically-developing peer throughout the duration of the production’s preparations and performances. Such novel camaraderie will illustrate that early experiences with the arts have profound effects on children’s participation in the cultural life of their communities.
The stage provides a fresh and inclusive, professional canvas where all young people can work together in the pursuit of theatrical excellence. Variety St. Louis joins with the public at-large by advancing an arts program that nurtures, challenges, and empowers young people of all abilities. While the production provided Variety children and teens a unique, creative drama experience enabling personal growth, it truly succeeded in breaking down stereotypes related to disabilities that exist within communities at-large.
The production of Tom Sawyer and its all-inclusive cast heightens our society’s value of individuals for their contributing skills and abilities in ways that likely challenged participants’ and spectators’ preconceptions. Sociologically, Variety St. Louis’ development of high quality, genuinely-pioneering theater demonstrates enthusiasm to remedy the exclusion of children with limitations from live performance. This type of professional production helps dispel myths about children who are all-too-frequently marginalized, as it promotes their full participation in society. The production offered the general public a rare opportunity to enjoy live theater performed by actors of varied strengths and limitations, using superior acting talents that rose above false perceptions of disability. Enabling Variety Kids to perform via the theatrical platform to express their talents and abilities, touts “performing arts” as accessible to everyone.
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