Freedom of expression

Developmentally disabled actors put an improvisational spin on a classic tale

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2009

The great playwright Arthur Miller once said, "The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it's so accidental. It's so much like life."

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Courtesy Of The Canvas
Courtesy Of The Canvas

The Canvas Community Art Gallery & Studio and Perseverance Theatre have brought together 13 actors from REACH with developmental disabilities to perform "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" in a fascinating manner. The pay-as-you-can 30-minute performance begins at 7 p.m. Monday on the main stage at Perseverance Theatre.

The play is the culmination of an eight-week acting class for adults with developmental disabilities taught by the theater's education director Shona Strauser that allows the actors to bring their own life experiences into the performance.

"The actors collaborated to adapt the script," said MK MacNaughton, program developer for The Canvas. "It will definitely be an improvisational piece. There is a lot that has been rehearsed, but there will be a lot of improvisation on stage that night."

The Canvas is an art studio under the fiscal umbrella of REACH that offers "day habilitation" for adults with developmental disabilities. The studio is also open to the public to encourage people of all ages and abilities to come together, MacNaughton said.

"The goal is to offer a space where people come together through the arts, people of all abilities and ages," she said.

This is the third year in a row that The Canvas and Perseverance Theatre have collaborated on this theater project. The first year culminated with a pure improvisational performance and last year the group performed "Little Red Riding Hood."

"The goal and focus of The Canvas is to support creativity through the arts, through expression, so theater is a wonderful medium for that," MacNaughton said.

While the play follows the basic structure of Aesop's fable of a bored shepherd boy that falsely calls "wolf" one too many times, the actors have added their own takes on the classic tale.

"One actor suggested that the boy who cried wolf maybe gets a little bored while watching the sheep and so maybe a superhero drops out of the sky and slips on a banana peel," MacNaughton said. "So that's the kind of script development we've been working with - full of lots of surprises."

The 13 actors range from ages 16 to 50 and have a wide spectrum of life experiences, interests and abilities, she added.

"Some of the performers have been in previous classes and have some experience in front of an audience, and for others it will be their first time in front of an audience," MacNaughton said.

The play will consist of a pack of three wolves, a flock of four sheep and a group of townspeople with different histories and job skills that the actors have identified with, she said.

"I think that's one of the really beautiful things about theater is it's easier sometimes for people to express themselves physically, for all of us I think, than verbally in front of a crowd," MacNaughton said. "Shona has given the actors great tools to project their voices and move their bodies and make themselves heard."

The actors will take questions from the audience following the performance. There will also be a reception following the performance and recognition of donors that have provided significant assistance to REACH this year.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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