The two actors stood stage left, on an otherwise empty stage.
One asked the other, “What do you get when you put a spider together with an ear of corn? (*Find out at end of blog)
The answer drew hoots and cheers from the audience watching a sold-out performance of How to eat like a child—and other lessons in how not to be a grown up (Based on a book by Delia Ephron).
But there was a more intriguing question behind and underlying the entertainment. What do you get when you put young people with special needs together with middle and high school students who are passionate about theatre?
The answer is CenterStage’s Tapestry Theatre Company (CSTC), in Louisville, Colorado.
CSTC is the brainchild of Elizabeth Goodrich, a special ed teacher and member of the Board of Directors of CenterStage, and Lynne Niston, a special needs paraprofessional. Each has a long standing interest in theater as part of the arts and both were initially members of other theatre groups. Through their professional and personal interests, they became aware of groups around the world that cast individuals with special needs in theatre productions. Then six years ago Ms. Goodrich and Ms. Niston put their heads, hearts and talents together and started Tapestry.
A Different Kind of Theatre Company
CenterStage’s Tapestry Theatre casts actors with special needs, ages 11 and up in lead roles. Peer mentor actors are partnered with them as understudies and support. They work together during rehearsals and appear together on stage during performances.
I have been attending their amazing, talented, heart-opening productions for the past four years. In the interests of full disclosure, one of my grandsons is a Tapestry peer mentor. That’s how I learned about this unusual company.
As their website (centerstagetheatrecompany.org) explains: “Tapestry Theatre provides actors with an opportunity to participate in Theatre that is safe, welcoming and adaptive and inclusive. This creates a community that encourages youth to experience diversity and forge long-lasting friendships, culminating in high quality musical productions.”
Tapestry is not affiliated with any other theatre groups. As part of CenterStage, it receives support from various community organizations, including the Association for Community Living, which is part of The ARC; The National Endowment for the Arts; the Boulder County Arts Alliance; and the City of Louisville.
Originally the intent of the two directors was to provide involvement to individuals with special needs through the age of 21—the age when school services end. However, they have now started a young adult program and have also expanded their performances to include multi-generational and multi-ability casts.
Ms. Goodrich is passionate about the results she sees. “Our mentors bring an openness to relationships with people of all abilities and an understanding that persons with special needs have valuable gifts or talents that are most often overlooked.
“Mentors not just there to share their own talents, they are there to receive those gifts. Understanding this can lead to a breakthrough in changing society. It is what is so magical about what we are doing.”
Shakespeare Got It
In penning his play, “As You Like it,” Shakespeare included this line: “ All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” In directing Tapestry, Ms. Goodrich knows how she would like it. “It is my hope that beyond entertaining our audience, our performances will open doors past theatre into everyday life for people of all abilities.”
I applaud that thought and all that Tapestry is accomplishing.
*Answer to the riddle: A cobweb.
Oldest Daughters: what to know if you are one or have ever been bossed around by one (Rudzik Press, 2017) is available at Amazon.com, Kindle.com and select book stores. For more information, go to http://oldestdaughter.com