Anne Wasinger, 18, of Hays, Kansas, a senior at Thomas More Prep Marian High School, founded and directs an annual theatre camp for adults with developmental disabilities, an intensive five-day experience that culminates in a performance for the community. When Anne has 3 years old, she began performing in her local community theatre along with family members. But one member of her family wasn’t able to participate. “My big brother, Joel, has cerebral palsy and due to inaccessibility, he could never perform with me,” Anne said. However, the theatre moved to a new facility in the summer of 2018 and built wheelchair-accessible ramps and bathrooms. That spurred Anne, who believes that the “limitless” benefits of theatre should be available to all, to start “Center Stage Theatre Camp” to give people with disabilities a chance to learn theatre techniques, gain confidence, express themselves and showcase their talents.
After several proposals and meetings, Anne partnered with the local theatre to cover costs and provide rehearsal space. She then persuaded a large local church to host the group’s post-camp performance; selected skits, songs, and dances to teach the performers; purchased scripts; spread the word among agencies that work with people with disabilities; and recruited volunteers to help. Despite some funding setbacks early on and now the challenges presented by COVID-19, Anne has persevered and thus far has conducted two camps involving a total of 50 “campers” and 40 volunteers. She estimates that over 200 members of her community have turned out to watch their shows.