SHERIDAN — A group of Sheridan adults are often misunderstood, and this year they are using their annual acting platform to express common misconceptions in a lighthearted yet serious theatrical performance.
Easterseals Wyoming is an organization providing adults with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to live independently. Each year, members of the organization — which runs two residential homes, a Housing and Urban Development home, an apartment complex and a day center on Joe Street in Sheridan — collaborate with staff members to create, rehearse and perform a play. In years past, plays have had themes relating to Disney, the wild west and television through the decades.
This year, instead of simply going about the project with a lighthearted script, the residents and members opted to show Sheridan what real, daily life is like for adults living with intellectual disabilities.
“A lot of them in the play are actually doing parts that actually fit into their lives,” Co-Director and Day Services Coordinator Amber Kunz said. “It was their idea of what they wanted to do. We asked all of the participants if it would be OK if we used their life story in the play.”
The play itself might be sobering.
“I think it’s actually going to be a bit controversial,” Senior Director Dana Paulson said. “…It’s one of the ways we’re trying to teach (the community that) the folks that are going to be onstage have a disability but we want them to see their ability.”
While it may strike an uncomfortable chord with some audience members, it is a seemingly simple depiction of a normal day in the lives of these adults.
“To them, this is just going to show the community what they have to do every day,” Kunz said. “The judgments, the rudeness of people, the downgrading of them, being called names.”
The title of the show, “A Little Help From My Friends,” is fitting practically and for the performance. On a daily basis and even during rehearsals for the play, the cast members helped fellow actors with lines. Kunz said one cast member memorized every single line to help out his friends onstage, and he followed through by prompting people with their lines throughout the final dress rehearsal on Thursday.
The original event started in 2001 after an Easterseals staff member read to adults. While the staff member read the book aloud, the adults would act the book out, thus sparking the idea to implement a play.
Lead Manager Jesse Dahl said the group has only missed one year since then, performing each year on a big stage in Sheridan — the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center. This year’s cast will perform twice, once at 1 p.m. and a second show at 6 p.m. March 29. There is no set cost for patrons, but a donation of any amount will be collected at the door.
Members will use their platform — and stage — to educate and entertain the community about a day in the life of an Easterseals Wyoming adult.