CTG is reaching out to the special needs community to share our love of theatre, performing and the joy of being on stage.

CTG presents ‘OnStage and Inclusive’: 2017

Program Dates: June 12 – 23, 6 PM – 9 PM (Mon-Fri)

Show Dates: June 24 @ 7:30 PM  & June 25@ 2 PM

Location: CTG’s Starr Theatre and Cone Studio @ 520 S. Elm Street Greensboro, NC

‘OnStage and Inclusive’ is a unique 2 week multi-age theatre program that engages special needs participants of varying abilities to work on self-expression, advocacy and communication skills through expressive theatre arts. This inclusive theatre program is by audition only and the selected Company will use the 2 weeks to create performances based on collaborative ideas formed with their acting partners. There will be Acting, Vocal and Inclusive specialists to work with the Company. Additional backstage learning opportunities including lighting, sound and stage management are also available by audition.

The 2 weeks will culminate with entertainment, friendship and the arts, as we celebrate with 2 Performance Showcases for the community. The Performance Showcase will feature all the program’s Participants, many of whom will be performing on stage for the very first time. These performances will be a great opportunity for our community to see how CTG is fulfilling its mission by “bringing our diverse community together to learn about, experience and celebrate the joys of theatre.” After the show on Sunday, meet the performers and enjoy refreshments at a cast party to be held in The Herman and Barbara Cone Family Education and Event Center.

Thanks to a generous grant from Lincoln Financial Foundation, OnStage & Inclusive will be tuition free for all participants.

To view the documentary ‘OnStage and InFocus’ : The Story click here.

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Posted  November 9, 2015 at 11:10 PM

By Chad Tucker at Fox 8

Read the article at Fox 8.

Actors Living Their dreams in ‘Wizard of Oz’ in Greensboro

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Two actors in the Community Theatre of Greensboro’s “The Wizard of Oz” may have disabilities but that’s not keeping them from taking stage.

“Stop being what others expect you to do,” said Gabriel Allen, who has cerebral palsy. He’s been living his dream of acting for six years now despite being in a wheelchair. “Just go for it, live your dreams.”

For 21 years, the show has included actors with special needs.

“I don’t treat them any different, they don’t want to be,” said Executive Director Mitchel Sommers, who believes in casting people with talent no matter their disability. “You got to be here on time, learn your lines and do your thing.”

Sommers says community theatre should always reflect the community and for many, seeing people with special needs on stage is inspiring.

“I always tell people if you give him an opportunity he’s bound to surprise you,” said Connie Bissell. Bissell’s son Luke, who has Down syndrome, is performing as a munchkin and says he’s more like all the other children than he is different. “He’s just like God wanted him to be … and he’s great.”

“Do what you want to do to make yourself happy,” said Allen. “Otherwise you’ll be miserable the rest of your life.”

The show starts on Saturday.

Posted: Saturday, June 22, 2013 9:00 am
By Jennifer Atkins Brown jennifer.brown@news-record.com
Read the article at the News & Record.

OnStage and InFocus (from the Greensboro News & Record)

Sydni Rose Birnbach (left) and Sarina Haghighat rehearse their skit. Photo credit: LYNN HEY/News & Record

Sydni Rose Birnbach (left) and Sarina Haghighat rehearse their skit. Photo credit: LYNN HEY/News & Record

Looking back on his childhood, Mitchel Sommers is not proud of being part of a group that made fun of a girl in his neighborhood.

“As I got older, I was so embarrassed that I did that,” said Sommers, executive director of the Community Theatre of Greensboro.

Sommers made a personal commitment to use that experience in a positive way.

“I wanted to right that wrong,” he said.

In collaboration with InFocus, Sommers helped start the first OnStage and InFocus summer program.

An inclusive program held in the past two weeks, OnStage and InFocus brought together 23 people to work on self-expression, advocacy and communication skills through theater arts.

Participants were from 7 to 50 years old. Half have a physical, intellectual or developmental disability and were paired with people who are interested in the arts and working with others.

Each person auditioned and spent two weeks creating skits based on photographs and ideas brought in by the participants.

Acting, vocal and choreography specialists worked with the participants. The program culminates this afternoon with a performance, photography exhibit and reception at the Community Theatre of Greensboro. There will be 10 short skits that include acting, singing and a little dancing, as well as two group vocal performances.

As participants stepped to center stage to rehearse their rendition of “Put On a Happy Face” earlier this week, it was obvious that no effort was needed to put on a smile. Their pride and excitement at being part of OnStage and InFocus was overflowing and contagious.

“It’s been fun watching people who’ve had very little experience working with people with varying abilities be amazed,” said Ginger Walton from the Arc of Greensboro.

Sommers collaborated to create OnStage and InFocus with Walton and Stuart Schleien, professor and chairman of the community and therapeutic recreation department at UNCG. Walton and Schleien are co-directors of the InFocus program, which they started three years ago to give people a voice through photography.

“We want the community to think differently about people with disabilities and want them to appreciate people’s beauty,” Schleien said.

Walton agreed.

“We want to change people on this side of the stage,” she said as she pointed to the audience seating area. “We want people to leave saying, ‘Wow, what can I do to make a difference and enrich the lives of those in this program, as well as be more welcoming of people with all abilities?’ ”

Allyson Clayton, 13, tagged along with a friend to an interest meeting about OnStage and InFocus and was hooked. Born three and a half months prematurely, Allyson has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. She plays baseball with the Arc of Greensboro and takes ballet classes through Greensboro Ballet’s Dancing Above the Barre program.

“I’m disabled, but I’m not helpless,” she said.

The OnStage and InFocus program appealed to her because she knew she’d be around people who understood the challenges of being disabled.

“I was raised that I can do anything,” she said. “Up until now, I’ve been a singer, but now the theater bug has definitely bitten me.”

Allyson’s delight in being part of the program was obvious from the twinkle in her eyes and her animated discussion of what she and her partners planned. They were singing and doing a skit, and when it was her turn to hit the stage and rehearse her number, she boldly shared her thoughts and ideas with Sommers and the other participants. Allyson will be a freshman at Page High School in August, and although she was looking forward to joining the chorus at Page, she said she also might get involved in the theater program there, too.

“This has been the most amazing experience,” she said of her participation in OnStage and InFocus. “This has been the highlight of my summer so far.”

OnStage and InFocus has also been an exciting learning experience for volunteers such as Branson Long, a rising junior at Northern High School, who was paired with Jeff Piegari.

The lead actor last year in Northern’s production of “Footloose,” Branson volunteered to help this summer after working with the Arc of Greensboro earlier in the year.

Branson said he and Jeff have become good friends, and he has enjoyed getting to know all the others involved. A young participant with brittle bone disease bounced back and forth between Branson’s lap and the lap of another teen volunteer while they waited for their turn to rehearse.

“I’ve learned that people a little different than you don’t need to be treated differently,” Branson said. “They just need a friend.”

Suzy Huycke, a graduate assistant working with Schleien, helped pair those with varying abilities with their companions for the program.

“Theater is such a great way to get the point across that they (those with varying abilities) have a lot to give,” she said. “I’ve learned you should never assume someone can’t do something.”

Sommers has set a goal not only to change the community’s outlook, but also to make the Community Theatre of Greensboro more inclusive.

“It’s very easy to say we’re the Community Theatre of Greensboro, but we’re not really the ‘community’ theater,” he said.

Sommers said his goal is to be inclusive, and he realized he had to take a proactive approach in creating opportunities for those with different abilities.

“Anything we can do to give them the life skills needed to lead a productive life is awesome,” he said. “I hope this program opens doors and gives people the opportunity to show their talents and what they have to offer our community.”

Contact Jennifer Atkins Brown at 574-5582.