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Imagine! student take the stage

Regular rehearsals help participants to build confidence.
Imagine! student prepare for their theatrical performance of "Inside Outer Space."

The participants in the Imagine! School Age Services program know that nothing beats taking a bow on stage or the roar of audience applause. They have created a new production that every young person has an opportunity to experience the big stage.

Participants in the Imagine! School Age program are young people with cognitive, physical or developmental challenges, and the organization works to find ways to incorporate persons with disabilities into their communities and provide individuals with enrichment opportunities. Theater is one way for these young people to express themselves.

The original production called “Inside Outer Space” was created by local educators and artists Mimi Ferrie and Kristel Jelinek Brown from the Dandelion Arts Collective in conjunction with Imagine! students.

The production’s storyline was generated during the first few rehearsals, where Ferrie and Brown led the students in improvisation sessions. Performers took turns exchanging ideas and throwing out possible plot themes. Voting was used to further narrow the scope of concepts and characters. From there, the directors facilitated a discussion about the sights, smells and sounds involved in the chosen setting and incorporated more details into the script based on student feedback.

“Once the script is built, performers are encouraged to provide feedback regarding any tweaks or changes they want. The directors typically have 2-3 versions of the script before it is finalized.  The group will then spend 6-7 weeks practicing their lines and transitions in preparation for the show,” said Dani  Michaelis, program specialist for Imagine!’s Social Enterprise Program.

“Inside Outer Space” is an exploration of human emotion, with performers traveling to four planets and visiting families who encapsulate the emotion being represented — joy, anger, sadness and silliness.

Regular rehearsals help participants to build confidence. Program participant Arianna Inglese said, “This isn’t really my thing. I get stage fright, but I am getting over that.” When asked what made that fear subside, she replied, “Having fun with people.”

The performance is as much about having a good time as it is about giving these young people a voice. 

“This demographic can often experience choices in their own lives being made for them, without them. It is a massive misconception that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are incapable of making their own choices and leading their own lives.  It is arguably our biggest goal at Imagine! to encourage the individuals we serve to not only find their own voice but to use it,” Michaelis said.

Performer Robbie Lucero has embraced the opportunity. 

“I love it. I have so much fun. I would like to do more theater,” he said.

 Lucero contributed a lot of ideas during the initial plot creation for the show, and he said he is “most excited for the chicken dance.”

At rehearsals, students are a mix of enthusiastic and nervous. Some of the participants require more encouragement to take the stage while others are eager to perform. 

“We have a few performers who absolutely adore the limelight and would likely do a performance all by themselves every single day for an audience who would listen,” Michaelis said.

The production of “Inside Outer Space” will take place Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at the Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Lafayette. The production is free and open to the public.