The Penguin Project

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The Penguin Project, Greenwood Theatre

The Greenwood Community Theatre is known for bringing fantastic shows and events. As a part of the master planning process, community leaders sought a way to develop a cultural district in downtown that would serve as fuel to new economic development. The Penguin Project which was conceived by Dr. Andrew Morgan serves to empowering children with special needs through theatre. Also, to give children with special needs an opportunity to participate in the performing arts. The Penguin Project strives to demonstrate that individuals with special needs are fully capable of participating in community activities with the same dedication and enthusiasm as others, if given opportunity and support. The origin of the name “Penguin Project” comes from the unique characteristics of penguins. They are extremely playful and curious, and work well together.

Laura Riddle the Fine Arts Administrator Specialist at Lander has been hands on with the project.The Penguin Project brings a sense of belonging and involvement that special-needs youth in Greenwood haven’t had an outlet for previously, especially in a theatre or performance setting. Most theatre programs for special-needs kids are focused around exercises and short activities, but this is a full production of “Annie, Jr.”, with lighting, sound, and costuming, and every single role being played by a special-needs youth – something that many people didn’t think was possible” states Riddle.

If you know someone who is interested in working for future shows The Penguin Project is open to any individual age 10 to 21 with a developmental disability. That 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. Riddle also adds, “It has been incredible watching these children – some of whom were non-verbal, would not make eye contact, and didn’t want to participate on-stage – completely break out of their shells, and smile, sing, and dance with the rest of the group.” Riddle looks forward to working on future projects.

 The Penguin Project presented the musical Annie Jr. this past weekend. September 14-17. The youth displayed their hard work and dedication. Performance dates for future shows will be available soon. For specific questions regarding GCT’s Penguin Project, call GCT at 864-229-5704 or email Program Coordinator and Director Ansley Keenan at keenana@gwd50.org. Participation for Artists is free due to the generous funding provided by Greenwood County Community Foundation. Also, you can become an artist, mentor, or volunteer for future projects. For more information, please visit http://penguinprojectpeoria.org/

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