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ABLE Theatre brings Christmas show to Orillia

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

SUBMITTED
The ABLE Theatre troupe will perform an entertaining mash-up of Christmas traditions, stories, songs and memories during their show Friday at the Orillia Opera House.

SUBMITTED The ABLE Theatre troupe will perform an entertaining mash-up of Christmas traditions, stories, songs and memories during their show Friday at the Orillia Opera House.

What started as a one-time initiative seems to be turning into an ongoing event.

ABLE Theatre will present a Christmas show this Friday evening at the Orillia Opera House after an initial foray into the ABLE Project earlier this year.

"We're giving a voice to those with exceptional needs," said Stephen Pinney, a local playwright and teacher, who works part-time at a group home helping those with intellectual disabilities, and is organizing the show with director Tom Carson.

"The show is built in an ensemble tradition with everybody who performs bringing their ideas with them," Pinney said, noting the show highlights some performers who are gifted singers and others who have strong improvisational skills.

"Our vision is to give a voice to this community."

To start the first incarnation, Pinney applied for and received an Ontario Arts Council grant with the group, putting on a show in June.

"The grant allowed us to get the project kicked off," he said, noting members with the not-for-profit company enjoyed the experience so much that they decided to partner with Christian Horizons, an Ontario-based support provider to run an ongoing schedule of rehearsals and performances.

Pinney said they started holding rehearsals/classes back in September.

"We've had 10 weeks of rehearsals," he said. "It's a bit of a drama class concept."

Several years ago, Pinney wrote a play called The Ghosts of Mariposa. It featured characters with special needs, but was performed by professional actors who didn't have special needs. The positive reception to the play, however, laid the foundation for the idea of individuals with intellectual disabilities starring in their own play.

Now, the ABLE Theatre company features about 11 members with special needs and six or seven volunteers. The troupe is comprised of local performers Amanda Fairbairn, Ryan Smith, Lisa Marshall, Fraser Collins, Penny Malcolm, Rick Wood and many more.

"We also have people from Community Living and a couple of people who used to be at the Huronia Regional Centre," he said. "It's been fun, it's been a great journey."

The troupe also performed this past August at the inaugural Huronia Arts Festival with the province's lieutenant governor in attendance.

Tickets to the Christmas show that begins at 7 p.m. are available at the Opera House. They cost $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and youth 18 and under. A special rate for groups of 10 or more is also available with tickets costing $12.50 per person.

andrewphilips@live.ca



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