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Archive for Tuesday, September 5, 1995

LHS PERFORMERS LIVE INCLUSION

September 5, 1995

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Inclusion strikes close to home for Lawrence High students who were asked to perform a play last month at a national conference.

A group of Lawrence High School students, who performed a play on inclusion last month in Minneapolis, Minn., have learned first-hand what being inclusive is all about.

"Resolution," a play written by Ric Averill of the Seem-To-Be Players professional children's theater, was performed by members of the LHS Experimental Theatre Program, which is directed by Jeanne Averill.

The play is about The World Vision Quest Class, a bunch of smart kids who are invited to a competition in Chicago where they'll be asked to solve problems. If they win the competition, they'll head on to internationals in Paris.

Enter inclusion.

Two students with disabilities join the class.

"Some of the smart kids get real nervous," Ric Averill said. "They start worrying about winning."

So one of the characters devises a plan to exclude the students with disabilities. But it blows up in her face when a girl with cerebral palsy gives a much better speech than one of the so-called smart kids. So she and the others in the class work together and decide that everyone should go to Chicago.

The topic of inclusion was at the fore in the real-life Experimental Theatre Program. Jeremy Proctor, one of the students in the class, uses a wheelchair and has no speech capabilities. He played one of the two students with disabilities in "Resolution."

"It's unbelievable to me that a play like that would be written with such creativity and humor but, at the same time, delivering such a powerful message," said Jeremy's father, Randy Proctor, who along with his wife accompanied the troupe to Minneapolis. ``He loved being in it. He developed a real fine relationship with the other kids -- and they with him -- and what happened in this particular case is exactly the message that the play communicates."

Ric Averill equated the students' invitation to perform at the American Alliance for Theatre in Education Conference to "winning nationals." This is the second time in three years that the Experimental Theatre Program has been invited to take a production to the conference.

"Resolution" was initially commissioned by the school district's Special Services division, and a portion of the trip to Minneapolis was funded by a grant from the state Social and Rehabilitation Services Kansas Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities.

For Breanna Pine, a junior, who played the other student with disabilities, the play was a real challenge. When Ric Averill cast her as a student with cerebral palsy, Breanna said, she was nervous.

"It was especially a really good learning experience for me," she said, "having to play somebody with a disability."

Working with Jeremy in class and in the play was a real plus.

"He established himself as an actor," said Will Pepple, a senior who played "the jerk." "He gave it that extra punch of reality."

Amelia Buhler, a junior, played the student who tried to rig who would compete in the contest -- and then learned her lesson.

"I thought it was a really good thing," she said about the play. "It hadn't occurred to me that people were excluded."

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