This week EPIC Players presented its first musical inclusion cabaret of the season, featuring a “mix and match”—as Samantha says—of performers with and without disabilities. Directed by Broadway musical professionals Jonathan Ivie and Amaker Smith, EPIC’s Cabaret was a big success. My daughter and fellow cast members performed to a packed house on a Monday night at the Triad and raised $2000 for EPIC—much more than anticipated. (Readers may remember that it’s only been two weeks since You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.) Whether our cast members sang duets or solos, all performers chose songs inspired by their true-life experiences (both good and bad) to create a heartfelt cabaret called “Songs About Ourselves.”
As with all EPIC Players’ productions, our hope was that this cabaret would continue to push the boundaries of inclusion in the arts, break through social barriers, and challenge long held stigmas about individuals with developmental disabilities. The goal was for the audience to leave the theater with a new appreciation and respect for what our Players can contribute to the arts. More simply stated by Samantha: “We want to share our talents with the world and show everyone what we can do.” At the same time, there is an unspoken (and heartwarming) invitation to look beyond negative stereotypes to see what all kinds of minds and bodies can achieve when they work together in a neurodiverse group.
When the evening ended, I felt we had achieved our goal of creating a uniquely positive experience for our audience. For me, the cabaret was special because my daughter challenged herself to sing a Taylor Swift song outside her comfort zone in addition to a beautiful rendition of “Out of This World” from The Little Mermaid. It’s a pleasure to watch Samantha and her fellow cast members grow and improve with every performance. Their joy on stage is palpable, uniquely inspiring and contagious. I can’t wait to see EPIC perform The Tempest next year, as each production becomes more epic than the last.
EPIC Players is a non-profit, neuro-inclusive theater company whose mission is to create professional performing arts opportunities for artists living with disabilities.