by Merrill Matthews (Social Media Manager/ Promotions, Committee member, I Can Dream Theatre Group)
Founded by three educators Ada Masciarelli, Michele Matthews and Tricia Bartley, the I Can Dream Theatre Group is a community based organization that gives young adults with special needs the opportunity to develop their talents in the area of the performing arts. At the same time promoting commitment, responsibility, self-confidence and friendships in order to enrich the lives of the individuals involved. Ada, Michele and Trish have over 70 years combined experience working with individuals with special needs.
the more Masciarelli asked of her cast regarding dances and line memorizing, the more they delivered
So how did all of this come about? Ada Masciarelli (Writer/Director), Michele Matthews (Musical Director/Choreographer) and Tricia Bartley (Production Manager) are all special needs educators by day, but each come with either a practical theatre or music background or a general interest in it. What makes their collaboration unique is that they each have a focus that they can zone in on when it comes to managing as well as developing their group.
"For me, theatre allows for expression of oneself," says Ada Masciarelli. "I feel that that expression allows the person to gain more self confidence and awareness in themselves and more strength as an individual. For the special needs adults that we work with, I think it is a perfect vehicle in enhancing these qualities and building on them while either on stage or in other areas of their lives. And they seem to have a lot of fun doing it which makes the process much more enjoyable!"
Adds Michele Matthews, "(I love) the idea of having an opportunity for our students with special needs to have a chance to perform. There aren't many opportunities for them."
The group allows a forum for these adults to tap into what all of us love about the theatre: its immediacy, its universality and its interconnectedness amongst us all. What this group manages to do is diffuse the stigma around special needs individuals and ultimately show that we share the same wants and expectations when it comes to the stage.
Audience members leaving an I Can Dream Theatre Group production have reactions ranging from surprise and awe, to emotionally satisfied and joyous. There is something that is palpable in the air when their shows let out - big smiles on everyone's faces, and the countdown starts to the next production. Without fail, this is what happens at every show put on by this theatre company.