From Staff Reports
To call The Penguin Project a “production company” would be somewhat true. Its next offering, Shrek Jr., The Musical, a “performance,” only half the story. Its talent and behind-the-scenes go-getters “actors” and “stagehands,” not exactly on point.
“This is a transformative experience for both the kids on stage and you, the audience,” said Cran Dodds, Director of The Penguin Project. “It will make you look at theatre differently.”
Corsicana ISD’s The Penguin Project has gained world-wide acclaim, pairing cast members with developmental disabilities in lead roles alongside peer mentors. Shrek Jr., The Musical has a two-night run scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, and Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Corsicana High School Performing Arts Center (auditorium). Characters will be available for photos after the show. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.cisd.org/penguinproject.
The ability to sing or recite lines without fail matters none with Penguin Project. Leads do not have to be the best dancers, the most outgoing, or look any part.
“We don’t pick a student for a role,” Penguin Project Coordinator Margie Crow said. “We pick a student, and we change the role for them.”
The leading characters and even some stagehands are mirrored by mentors, students without disabilities. Mentors stay with their talent every step of the way, from the first day of rehearsal all the way through the production. They keep their talent safe, make sure they remember where to go and what to do during each scene, and help keep them calm.
“Best of all, they become friends with their talent,” said Tiffany Warren, Mentor Director. “Many times, you’ll see talents and mentors eating lunch together, walking in the hallways together, or sitting together in class.”
Penguin Project pushes everyone past their comfort zones, Crow said. They overcome nervousness around someone who may not be just like them. They do things they never thought were possible. For students like the mentors, they can find the experience humbling.
“You see a difference in (general education) students,” said Crow, recalling a GenEd student learning sign language so she could speak daily with a sign-only special education student after her experience as a mentor. “They need it as much as our (special education) students.”
“You have kids in school who need the applause, but you also have kids who need to learn to step back and give the
Shrek Jr. is the third production of The Penguin Project. It follows wildly-successful runs of Annie and Frozen. Of course, Shrek Jr. is based on the animated movie series, Shrek, a big green ogre whose best friend is a donkey and who meets and falls in love with Princess Fiona. Much like the basic intentions of The Penguin Project, all three characters are vastly different, yet find common ground and work together to make their lives beautiful and whole.
“The message is we embrace being different,” Dodds said. “Penguin Project allows students with different abilities to explore ways to assimilate into school in ‘normal’ ways.”
The three main characters and their mentors include Marcus Curtis as Shrek and his mentor Zane Stearman, Makenzie
Murphy as Fiona and her mentor Claire Simmons, and Trystan Jackson as Donkey and his mentor Christian McNutt.
The production includes more than 75 students from the CISD. They include former leads who have progressed in their
lives and are now mentors. They have all given up a lot of free time to bring Shrek Jr. to the CHS stage before
Past audiences have included teachers, family members, and – of course, a giving community.
“My personal favorite audience members are parents and family members who beam with pride when they see how amazing their child is on stage,” Williams said.
To learn more about Shrek Jr., The Musical and The Penguin project, visit https://www.cisd.org/penguinproject.
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