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Once a year, a magical and touching celebration of the human spirit unfolds at Engle Lane Theatre in Streator, Illinois. A group of children in a program called The Penguin Project® take to the stage to perform a modified version of a well-known Broadway musical. This production is unique, however, because all of the roles are filled by children with developmental disabilities including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, visual impairment, hearing impairment, and other neurological disorders. They are joined on stage by their “peer mentors”, a group of children the same age without disabilities, who have volunteered to work with them side-by-side and guide them through 4 months of rehearsals and the final production. By creating unrestricted access to the performing arts, The Penguin Project® demonstrates that the special challenges of a disability need not handicap a child’s ability to participate in life’s experiences. For more information, please visit http://www.penguinproject.org/
 
About Us

The Penguin Project was conceived by Dr. Andrew Morgan to give children with disabilities an opportunity to participate in the performing arts.  “Dr. Andy” is a developmental pediatrician and the Chief of the Section of Child Development at the University of Illinois in Peoria. He is the primary medical specialist in Central Illinois involved in the diagnosis and treatment of children with disabilities, but has also directed and performed in many community theater productions in the area.  

He created The Penguin Project recognizing that theater not only provides children with a valuable recreational experience and an opportunity to display their creative talents, but also enhances social interaction, communication skills, assertiveness, and self-esteem. The Penguin Project strives to demonstrate that individuals with disabilities are fully capable of participating in community activities with the same dedication and enthusiasm as others, if given opportunity and support.  

The Comunity Players of Streator at Engle Lane Theatre is one of 19 replication sites for "The Penguin Project" - a program that originated in Peoria and is now going "on the road" to other communities.  We are very excited to bring this program to our community starting this November!!

We have some dates set! Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 7PM at Engle Lane Theater will be the "Get Acquainted Meeting." Anyone who wants to act, mentor, or volunteer should come. This is like a first rehearsal of a musical production. Next, our performance dates for our penguins for "Annie, Jr." will be March 9, 10, and 11 of 2018. March 11 will be a matinee. Get the word out! We will need a lot of help to make this production a success!

So why Penguins? The origin of the name “Penguin Project” comes from the unique characteristics of penguins. They are extremely playful and curious, and they work and play together. More importantly, they have a “disability” that distinguishes them from other birds - they can’t fly! Instead, penguins waddle and toboggan on their bellies over the snow, and are excellent swimmers. Like the participants in the program, they have adapted to the challenges of their environment and have not allowed their unique difference to interfere with their lives.

Participants

Young Artists With Disabilities:

The Penguin Project is open to any individual age 10 to 24 with a disability. This includes children with cognitive, learning, motor, hearing, and visual impairments, genetic disorders, and neurological disorders. There are no restrictions based on the level of cognitive ability, restriction of mobility, or lack of communication skills.  Because of concerns for safety, however, we are unable to accept anyone with a severe behavioral disturbance that might endanger himself/herself or others.

Peer Mentors:

The Penguin Project utilizes a “peer mentor” system, linking each young artist with an age level peer, between 12 and 21, who does not have a disability. The peer-mentors work side-by-side with their partners, assisting them throughout the entire rehearsal process and on stage. The mentors are responsible for knowing all of the lines, songs, and blocking of their partners. They are on-stage during the production, costumed to match or compliment their partners. They participate in the group production numbers, but are trained to remain “in the background” and provide direct assistance only as needed.

Donations to The Penguin Project at Engle Lane are gladly accepted.
There are many ways you can help!

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  We are seeking monetary support for renovations to continue making the backstage areas more handicapped accessible, in addition to support for the rights and royalties, costumes, sets, and props. Click the link above to donate online.