Lincoln Community Playhouse, under the leadership of Artistic Director, Morrie Enders, has been at the forefront of accessibility programming for years. The hallmark of their work is The Penguin Project, a musical theatre program for youth, ages 10-22, in which all the roles in the musical are played by children with special needs, known as Artists. The Artists are partnered with peers, known as Mentors, working together to learn lines, music, blocking, and dance. Then the Artists perform their roles for an audience with their Mentors a few feet upstage, performing along with them.
Morrie explains, “Our Artists have autism, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, attention deficit, traumatic brain injury, blindness, deafness, non-verbal, intellectual disability and use wheelchairs and walkers. None of these hold them back from developing characters, singing, dancing and creating a believable world of make believe. And, they create new partnerships and friendships.”
Artists often meet outside rehearsals with their Mentors to learn more about the process from each other. One Mentor who was performing with an Artist who is deaf, learned the sign language for the character's lines so he could help prompt the Artist. The Playhouse had hired a sign language interpreter for all rehearsals and she taught the Mentor.
The Artists experience the success of performing a show, and the Mentors experience their own growth and achievement from working with their Artist. Empathy, understanding and artistic expression are all nurtured through the Penguin Project.
For their advance work in making the arts more accessible for all Artists, we proudly present the 2020 Governor’s Arts Award to the Lincoln Community Playhouse and Morrie Enders.