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Every chair in the audience has been filled and faces in the crowd peer up at the stage, eager to see every act. Actors and actresses appear from behind the curtains one after another. Each has a huge smile on their face, happy to see the excited crowd ahead of them.
A scene like this is what Best Buddies teachers Melissa Dean and Mrs. MacSweeney hope to create through Unified Theater, a place for students with special needs to display their talents alongside students who don’t have special needs.
Unified theater, a national organization, has recently been added to the list of clubs Woodland has to offer. It aims to foster a creative environment amongst students with and without disabilities, allowing them to showcase their talents while creating friendships that go beyond the stage.
While the goal of Unified Theater is to put on a play, it is not a production as one would immediately think of. Dean specifies that it’s not like something Susan Cinoman, the theater teacher at Woodland, would put on as she does for the fall and spring plays at Woodland each year. Instead, Unified Theater focuses on each individual’s talents and what they’re good at. It allows students to forget about any type of disability while showing off their abilities, whether it be singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or more.
Unified Theater is run completely by students who are involved in it, specifically the leadership group. To prepare to bring Unified Theater to Woodland, they recently attended a workshop to learn about putting on show productions. Dean says the workshop was very educational and taught students about many things, among them scene creation.
Although there most likely will not be a full production this year, Dean is hoping to do something next fall and possibly put on a small show during the course of the school day or after school this spring.
Mary Lippa, a sophomore at Woodland, joined Unified Theater because she wanted the chance to work hand in hand with students who have disabilities to bring out their creative sides. She hopes to gain a new perspective and have fun while working alongside her peers, and is excited to create a production from scratch.
Unified Theater is open to anyone who would like to join and wants to be a part of its exciting mission. Getting involved in it is sure to yield great experiences and foster priceless friendships.