Playhouse In The Park’s Penguin Project packs house

Story by Da’sha TuckStaff writer

“It’s not about the special needs but about the special gifts,” Holly Bloodworth, director of the Penguin Project said.

Playhouse In The Park’s Penguin Project’s first performance of Seussical Jr. was a success.

There were all ranges of disability displayed within the program but all participants were able to play a part in the production.

The show was comprised of many Dr. Seuss favorites. One of the first stories performed was “Horton Hears a Who!”

As actor, Alex Schornak, approached the middle of the stage to deliver his line, his face lit up with pride and excitement. Schornak, like many of the actors, is new to the Penguin Project this year.

All of the actors on the stage have been diagnosed with a disability. Schornak has autism.

He said he enjoys singing and thinks the Penguin Project has been a wonderful experience.

“A person is a person no matter how small,” Schornak said, leaving an immense effect on the audience.

As the production went on, the audience got to see more and more personality emerge from these, as parents’ described, once muted children.

Annabel Wilcher played the role of the Cat in the Hat. Every time she took the stage she did so with more confidence than the last, sometimes even entering with a cartwheel.

“She was born with a cleft lip and palette so she has always been aware of her speech, but this program has been such a confidence builder for her,” said Kari Wilcher, Annabel’s mother. “I couldn’t be more proud.”

Braxton Stewart is described as a familiar face at Playhouse In The Park by Bloodworth.

Stewart has been involved for four years and has participated in four productions. This is his second year with the Penguin Project. Stewart has Down Syndrome. He had the pleasure of playing the ring master in this production.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my circus,” Stewart said.

The production itself only lasted an hour and 40 minutes but the impact this program has on the actors and actresses will last a lifetime.

“This program is outstanding,” MeLissa Petik said. “Children can come here and be accepted. They have a place where they will never be judged.”

MeLissa has a daughter who participated in the performance, Grace Petik. Grace is 12-years-old and wants to be an actress, pop star and a fashion model when she grows up.

She has autism as well as other special needs.

  “I have seen growth in overall maturity and especially in taking direction from authority figures,” MeLissa said. “Most of all, I see the joy that has been hidden deep inside my daughter come bursting out!

All the actors who participate have a different story, but they were all able to come together on stage and use their special talents to preform Seussical. 

Bloodworth said she was pleased with the way the first performance went. Bloodworth’s goal is to make the audiences say wow instead of awe when they see the penguins preforming.

The penguins will be preforming until Sept. 20.

Showtime’s vary and tickets are available upon arrival or online at Tickets cost $11 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, $9 for students and $8 for children. Ordering online will add a $1.50 Internet processing fee per ticket.