Paper Mill Playhouse to Offer Creative Drama Class For Students With Developmental Disabilities

Paper Mill Playhouse in partnership with VSA-NJ will present its first ever creative drama class for students with developmental disabilities ages 9 to 12. This class meets Fridays from April 13 through May 25, 2012 from 3:45 till 4:45 PM. This six week program costs $170 per student. Space is limited, so register today.

Designed specifically for children with developmental disabilities, and planned in cooperation with VSA-NJ, an organization which provides a wide array of arts programming for children and adults with disabilities, this brand-new class will include theater improvisation, story telling, music, movement and visual art. The series will creatively address and include diverse learning styles and modes of communication. The classes will be held on-site at Paper Mill Playhouse, and will be instructed by Leslie Fanelli of VSA-NJ.

“I am very pleased to broaden the offerings in our Theater for Everyone programming,” stated Lisa Cooney, Paper Mill Playhouse’s Director of Education. “In this instance, as with all of our classes, we’ll certainly see how arts education is not merely the icing on the cake to a child’s education, but it’s really the baking soda that helps all kids grow and explore ways of communicating.”

Paper Mill Playhouse has long provided a Theater For Everyone model and in 2011 the theater began offering a groundbreaking program, Sensory Friendly live theater performances for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Mickey McNany, Paper Mill Playhouse’s Theater School Director comments, “My granddaughter has Downs Syndrome and for her 9th birthday we had a theater party and she acted out the most enchanting ‘Sleeping Beauty’. She had invited many of her friends from Stepping Stones, a school for children with disabilities. After the party, many of the parents thought it would be wonderful if there was a program where their children could have the opportunity to play these roles. My response was, ‘Why not!’ Paper Mill Playhouse is thrilled to offer this new class in partnership with VSA-NJ.

Paper Mill Playhouse embraces a long history of providing access services to patrons of the theater and beyond. At Paper Mill Playhouse, we believe that the joy of live theater should be shared by everyone regardless of developmental or physical disability. We are proud to have our accessibility programming recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, VSA arts/ MetLife, and the New Jersey Department of Recreation as a role model for other performing arts organizations.

Paper Mill offers a wide variety of access programs and services including: sign-interpreted performances, open-captioned performances, audio-described performances, pre-show sensory seminars and barrier-free access theater-wide. Richard Herring, former director of the NJ Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing comments, “the comprehensive communication (interpreted performances, captioning and assistive listening devices) offered to patrons of Paper Mill Playhouse are among the most progressive and inclusive in New Jersey entertainment.”

Paper Mill Playhouse received the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ 2009 Excellence in Accessibility Leadership Award, the 2009 Arts Presenters/MetLife Award for Innovation and Excellence in Access, and the Cultural Access Network of New Jersey’s 2010 Sustainer Award and 2011 Innovators Award for its “Sensory-Friendly” live theater performances. These awards recognize the theater’s innovative access programming, its commitment to accessibility, and its example to other arts organizations in New Jersey and across the country.

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