Peer mentors needed for students with special needs theatre

Gettysburg Community Theatre (GCT), the non-profit 501c3 organization located at 49 York Street within the first block of Lincoln Square in Gettysburg, PA, has begun its annual Penguin Project (theatre for actors with special needs) but needs at least 10 more volunteer peer mentors ages 10+ without special needs to help the actors with special needs during this rewarding program that meets weekly on Mondays 6-7 pm now through November 27, with dress rehearsals 6 pm November 27-30, and performances weekends December 1-10, 2023. No experience is necessary as GCT provides free training with this program. Some schedule conflicts can be worked around, but many volunteers are needed to get this program going strong again post-pandemic. Sign up for this free program for ages 10+ with and without special needs is available online at https://gettysburgcommunitytheatre.org/the-penguin-project/

The Penguin Project gets its name from the fact that penguins are birds with special needs, they cannot fly, but they thrive equally as well as any bird in their own environment.

Honk 2022 The Penguin Project Of GCT

Students from last year’s GCT Penguin Project production of the musical HONK!

“Our penguins (actors with special needs) may not be able to fly,” says GCT Founding/Executive Director Chad-Alan Carr, “but we see their spirits soar on stage through the love and joy of theatre arts.”

The Penguin Project began in Illinois over two decades ago and is now being replicated in over 15 different States across the country. GCT was the first to replicate the program and started producing an annual musical featuring young actors with special needs and their peer mentors side by side with them back in 2014. GCT’s Penguin Project has performed at the high school auditoriums of Gettysburg and Hanover, as well as at the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center and, of course, at the GCT stage. The program took a break during the pandemic but returned to the GCT stage last year with Honk! (the ugly duckling musical). This year’s production will be the classic musical based on the animated special Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and will perform at the Gettysburg Community Theatre this December. Tickets are already on sale for this popular title, and seating is very limited, so ordering in advance is highly encouraged.

“Though many of our young actors with special needs include everything from Autism, Down Syndrome, CP, cognitive delays, and other neurological disorders,” says Carr, “with GCT’s Penguin Project, we celebrate their abilities to shine on stage together with singing, dancing, and of course lots of smiles when the audience cheers for them. In our small intimate theatre without a bad seat in the house, it is truly magical, so bring tissues. It is life-changing.”

GCT’s Penguin Project 2023 is made possible by generous support from The Cultural Alliance Of York County, Adams County Community Foundation and their wonderful Giving Spree, The Robert C Hoffman Charitable Endowment Fund, The Marie Keese Lelash Foundation, The Forward Fund, Sharon Magraw, Danny Sebright, Kiwanis Club Of Gettysburg, The Optimists Club Of Gettysburg, The Eagle Riders Of Gettysburg, Gettysburg Eagles, The Christmas Haus, and The Gettysburg Chocolate Market.

GCT hopes to see YOU at the theatre this year. Subscribe free to the email list to be kept up to date on all educational, volunteer, and performance opportunities. Additionally, on the website, you can order tickets to in-person or streaming shows, register for classes, and make donations.

GCT Mission Statement: To inspire creativity and confidence, provide cultural enrichment, and instill a love of the theatre arts in people of ALL ages and abilities through quality education and performance.

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