Above L - R: Elias Rosenblitt, White Pines acting student, Shindig director Benjamin Lloyd, Shindig actor Isabel Cohen, Shindig actor Dalia Lorenz.
On June 19th at Abington Friends School, White Pines presented the first 20 minutes of it's new musical, Fred Waring's Christmas Shindig. In the cast were professional actors and singers, student actors from Abington Friends School and actors with disabilities. The cast presented the first four scenes of the play, Bill Jolly and his singers performed three Fred Waring arrangements, Sutie Madison choreographed two dances, and Tina Budnik showed three original videos based on archival footage from actual Fred Waring holiday TV specials from the 1950s. About 100 people saw the show, which included a 15 minute talkback afterwards. It was a great success!
We are grateful to the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council for their support for this project, and to Abington Friends School for the space they donated to make it happen.
Now, we await Tina's documentary of Shindig week due to be released sometime this summer. Meanwhile Ben is soliciting feedback from various audience members, and the creative team will meet during the summer to plot next steps. Our goals: to raise the money to do two more developmental workshops and then to produce the full musical in December 2017.
Before the show on the 19th (which as it turned out was Father's Day), several people involved in the production rose to speak about what The Shindig has meant to them. Here's a letter read aloud by Karen Lecks, mother of Isabel Cohen, one of our actors with disabilities. We were very moved by what Karen said, and she has graciously allowed us to reprint it here:
It warms my heart to have you all here tonight.
It’s poignant that today is one of the holidays where we honor parents. To be a parent is always to be worried. If you have a neurotypical child you’re worried about who they are hanging out with, are they doing drugs or driving drunk etc. A parent with a special needs child has an equal but different set of worries. Will the world be accepting of my child or treat them as a burden? Will they be able to have a place in the world after I’m gone?
When a place is found like White Pines where their mission is that every person has equal value and can play together it is genuinely a blessing.
Ben Lloyd, Jerry Perna and the other performers at White Pines have made inclusion as you are going to see tonight part of the fabric of who they are. They took on educating themselves in the art of using theatre as a vehicle to bring together creative people with a wide range of abilities, physical, social and intellectual.
Our daughter Isabel has grown in many ways from being a part of this inclusive community. Everyone learns and wins by the melding of people with differences and brings us one step closer to a world that can work for each and every one of us.
Thanks so much for being here tonight and enjoy The Shindig.