Faculty & Staff

ICC’s Penguin Players Offers Performance Opportunities for Individuals with Special Needs, Peer Mentors

A joint effort will result in the debut this summer of an exciting performing arts program at Illinois Central College designed to provide additional performance experience for theatre students that will also provide opportunities for students with special needs.

The collaboration involves the Illinois Central College theatre program and the Penguin Project, a local program which gives individuals 10 to 21 years old with developmental disabilities or special needs the opportunity to participate in the performing arts. The new venture, called the Penguin Players, will be patterned after the Penguin Project but does not have an upper age limit; individuals must only be academically accepted to ICC.

In addition, others can enroll and work with participants with special needs as peer mentors, who are present on stage during productions and are responsible for knowing all lines, songs and blocking for their partners.

“ICC has a strong performing arts program and has offered summer theatre workshops for several years,” said Chris Gray, dean of ICC’s arts and communication department, of which the ICC theatre program is a part. “We realized we had the opportunity to fill a need for Penguin Project participants who no longer met the age requirements of that program by adapting what we offer already.

“We currently have ICC students who became involved in the performing arts through their involvement in the Penguin Project. Now we’ve created an opportunity for individuals involved in the Penguin Project who are also eligible for acceptance at ICC to continue participation in the performing arts and to earn college credit while doing so.”

According Dr. Andrew Morgan, founder of the Penguin Project and known to many as “Dr. Andy,” while the Penguin Project is an overwhelming success in terms of the benefits to children with special needs and their families, the age limit was put in place to allow new children to enter the program.

It is often difficult for individuals with special needs to find roles, and for the most part, those who “graduated” by aging out of the Penguin Project program had no options to continue. Recognizing this need, Morgan, Gray and ICC Associate Provost Margaret Swanson forged this relationship between The Penguin Project and ICC to create a “college-based” program for young adults using the model of The Penguin Project.

“Individuals with special needs and mentors will now have an opportunity to continue their theatre experience while going to college and earning college credit,” said Morgan, who will serve as a consultant for the Penguin Players at ICC. “In addition to providing a therapeutic experience for individuals with special needs, the program will expose college students without special needs to a new world of experiences as mentors and partners.”

The Penguin Project traditionally holds its performances during the winter. ICC’s program will run during the summer term. Participants in the ICC program will work with several theatre instructors in the preparation, rehearsing, staging and actual presentation of a production in the ICC Performing Arts Center. The Penguin Players program will begin with rehearsals in May and culminate with six performances of Godspell Jr. over two weekends in July.

All participants must be accepted for enrollment at ICC and register with department approval in ICC’s Theatre 220 course, a three credit hour summer semester course which begins May 4.

Registration for the program is currently open. For more information about enrollment, call Karen Giesler at (309) 694-8912 or email [email protected] Information is also available through the ICC Arts and Communication web site, ArtsAtICC.com.