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New Orillia Theatre for Special-Needs Adults

April 8, 2016

Handed a guitar, Collins bursts into song in an exuberant nod to the King.

There are smiles all around as the local man puts his talents to work in the front room at Orillia Community Church, home base for an emerging theatre program for adults with special needs.

“It’s not really Elvis,” Collins says of his get-up. “It’s a fake.”

Man sitting down with a guitar

Dubbed “The Able Project,” the 10-week theatre program was made possible through a $10,000 Ontario Arts Council grant. A writer, teacher and social worker, S.C. Pinney secured the grant in partnership with Christian Horizons, which oversees a number of group homes in the area.

“Several people in the group home where I work have an interest in performance, (but) they don’t have a lot of opportunities to do that,” he said of the impetus for the program.

Pinney wrote a play several years ago centering on young adults with intellectual disabilities – ‘The Ghosts of Mariposa’. Incorporating actors with special needs into a theatre program is “a natural extension” of that earlier interest, he says. Over the next two months, participants will develop skills related to acting, performance and personal expression.

The inaugural session focused on games and activities that will lay the foundation for the future, including vocal work and body movements.

“I wanted to try something new,” eager troupe member Ryan Smith told Simcoe.com. “I just go with the flow and do my best.”

The 31 year old enjoyed a round of applause after introducing himself with enthusiasm and flair during one of several exercises that afternoon.

“It was a lot of fun, I got to meet new people and be famous,” Smith added.

Working with Pinney are Christian Horizons’ district manager Mike Thompson and director Tom Carson. Over the next several weeks, the troupe will create an ensemble production for early summer performances at opera houses in Orillia and Gravenhurst. “I think it’s an opportunity to come and experience, hopefully, a good show and to hear from a voice that maybe we don’t hear from often enough in our community,” Pinney added.

Anyone wishing to take part can call 705-325-8272.