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Variety show explores vacation Nov. 13

Greensburg Daily News - 11/4/2017

Nov. 04--GREENSBURG -- Vacation is the theme for an upcoming variety show unlike any other that organizers say will provide plenty of laughs when it takes the stage later this month.

Decatur County Special Olympics coordinator Jenny Maddux said the cast of this year's "Front and Center Players" variety show has been rehearsing almost two dozen sketches and songs since early September.

All that practice is forming a raucous program that will allow 17 people with intellectual and/or physical disabilities moments to shine, showcasing their numerous talents for the community in which they live -- and the people of the hometown they love.

"When we gave them a topic and a theme ... they have really embraced it and come up with some really good ideas," Maddux said of the topic. "From there they kind of built on what songs they wanted to sing and what types of skits they wanted to do."

With a theme as wide-ranging as vacation, the performers were able to utilize their own creativity to come up with skits and songs -- such as "Vacation" by The Go-Go's and "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys -- to create a show that is decidedly their own.

Props and costumes round out the production, which will take the stage at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at the Decatur County Community Schools Administration Building.

The sixth iteration of the show, which is sponsored by the ARC of Decatur County, looks to be the largest production yet. Maddux said the free show will last about an hour.

The cast includes Derrick Barnes, Bradley Bevington, Amy Bright, Matthew Burkhart, Carrie Crites, Marguerite Dudgeon, Jennifer Johannigman, Jessica Johannigman, Brad Kiel, Tom Malone, Tyler Michael, Kathy Minor, Judy Mize, Tim Owens, Emily Pank, Jack Shafer, and Ann Smith.

Maddux and Carrie Shoemaker are directing the production while Kenny Hooten and Jay Dunn are working the sound. Bryan Collins will serve as master of ceremonies.

Maddux said additional help is being offered by the North Decatur High School Sunshine Society, who will offer refreshments after the performance.

The show will also feature a special guest appearance by Greensburg Chief of Police Brendan Bridges.

The police chief joked earlier this week that his stage debut will include neither dancing nor singing, but he said he is "excited" to be part of the program.

Many of the performers are Special Olympics athletes, which Greensburg Police are supporting. Bridges has traveled to Terre Haute to take part in the Summer Games held at Indiana State University there each summer.

Police have also organized programs at Developmental Services, Inc., focusing on safety for people with disabilities.

Maddux said the reaction to the production, which has been promoted on Facebook, has been "very positive."

"We've gotten a lot of shares," Maddux said of the show's presence on social media. "I think that, even aside from family and friends, a lot of people are excited. I just feel constantly blessed that we have that level of support."

Bridges attended last year and said the group played to "a packed house."

Maddux noted that Decatur County has numerous services available to people with disabilities -- a fact of which she is proud and happy.

"It's kind of neat for me that we've been able to give people with disabilities in our community so many choices that they can now pick and choose what they want to participate in," said Maddux.

But the Front and Center Players' performance -- and many other activities involving people with disabilities -- is intended to highlight talent, uniqueness and individuality.

The focus is firmly on ability, not any disability.

"I hope people can strip away whatever so-called diagnosis [the performers] have and people can see who they are," said Maddux. "That, to me, is the ultimate goal."

Maddux said opportunities such as these help raise awareness of how many ways people with disabilities contribute to their communities.

"Let's get past that stigma and move forward with them just being seen as an integral part of our community," she said. "We really want to be able to continue to raise awareness. What I really want to get across to people is that people with disabilities are no different from anyone else."

Just putting the show together has been beneficial for the performers as well, Maddux indicated.

The multiple rehearsals have helped the performers become comfortable with one another and have even helped the actors "go off script" when necessary.

"If someone goes with something 'off the cuff,' they just start going with it," said Maddux. "It's helped teach some additional skills in ad libbing."

That in itself has provided a learning experience for a group of dedicated people.

It appears, however, that the audience may benefit the most.

"It's just so funny," said Maddux.

Without revealing too much, Maddux said the vacation theme -- as nearly any traveler can attest -- is far from all sunshine and rainbows.

"I want to make sure people are surprised, but let's say it's not just about the fun that comes with the vacation, but also some of the headaches as well," Maddux said.

But putting it all together has been anything but a headache for Maddux, Shoemaker and the rest of the cast.

"Some are already talking about doing it next year," Maddux said. "We all deserve the opportunity to be able to do things for fun that we enjoy, that we love."

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056; brent.brown@greensburgdailynews.com

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(c)2017 the Greensburg Daily News (Greensburg, Ind.)

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