(Source: Millburn-ShortHills Patch)

Paper Mill Playhouse, partnering with VSA-NJ, will present its first-ever creative drama class for students ages 9 t o12 with developmental disabilities.

The class was designed specifically for these children and planned in cooperation with VSA-NJ, a state organization that provides arts programming for children and adults with disabilities. This brand-new class will include theater improvisation, story telling, music, movement and visual art. The series will creatively address and include diverse learning styles and modes of communication.

The classes will be held on-site at Paper Mill Playhouse, and will be instructed by Leslie Fanelli of VSA-NJ.

“I am very pleased to broaden the offerings in our Theater for Everyone programming,” stated Lisa Cooney, Paper Mill Playhouse’s Director of Education. “In this instance, as with all of our classes, we’ll certainly see how arts education is not merely the icing on the cake to a child’s education, but it’s really the baking soda that helps all kids grow and explore ways of communicating.”

Paper Mill Playhouse has long provided a Theater For Everyone model, and in 2011 the theater began offering “sensory friendly” live theater performances for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Mickey McNany, Paper Mill Playhouse’s Theater School Director says, “My granddaughter has Down Syndrome and for her 9th birthday we had a theater party and she acted out the most enchanting ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ ”

McNany said her granddaughter had invited many of her friends from Stepping Stones, a school for children with disabilities.

“After the party, many of the parents thought it would be wonderful if there was a program where their children could have the opportunity to play these roles,” McNany said. “My response was, ‘Why not?’ Paper Mill Playhouse is thrilled to offer this new class in partnership with VSA-NJ.”

Paper Mill Playhouse, which received the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ 2009 Excellence in Accessibility Leadership Award as well as numerous other awards for making the theater accessible to all, has a long history of providing access services to patrons of the theater and beyond.

“At Paper Mill Playhouse, we believe that the joy of live theater should be shared by everyone regardless of developmental or physical disability. We are proud to have our accessibility programming recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, VSA arts/ MetLife, and the New Jersey Department of Recreation as a role model for other performing arts organizations,” said Communications Director Shayne Miller.

This class will meet Fridays from April 13 through May 25 from 3:45 till 4:45 p.m. This six-week program costs $170 per student. Space in the class is limited, so Paper Mill directors urges those interested to register quickly.

(Source: Millburn-ShortHills Patch)

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