Whitaker Center
Central PA’s Nonprofit Center for the Arts

The Penguin Project

Penguin Project

Harrisburg's 2023 Penguin Project  presents ANNIE JR.!


Meet Us & Learn More

Join us on Wednesday, May 10th at 5:30pm at Whitaker Center for Science & the Arts. Theatre Harrisburg's Production Team will be sharing information about the project and this year’s production of Annie Jr. They will be available to answer any questions that you may have about the Penguin Project. Penguin Artists & Mentors are encouraged to attend and participate in a fun activity with Director Matt. Register here: https://docs.google.com/.../1FAIpQLScYmCvOm3Wu0Y.../viewform

 What is The Penguin Project?

Once a year, a magical and touching celebration of the human spirit unfolds at numerous theaters across the country. A group of children in a program called The Penguin Project take to the stage to perform a modified version of a well-known Broadway musical.

These productions are unique as all roles are filled by young artists with special needs. They are joined on stage by a dedicated group of peer mentors– children their same age – who have volunteered to work side-by-side with them through 4 months of rehearsals and  the final performances. By providing access to community theater, The Penguin Project demonstrates that the challenges of special needs  should not hinder a child’s ability to participate in life’s experiences.

Young Artists with Special Needs

The Penguin Project is open to any individual age 10 to 21 with special needs. This includes children with cognitive, learning, motor, hearing, and visual impairments, genetic disorders, and neurological disorders. There are no restrictions based on the level of cognitive ability, restriction of mobility, or lack of communication skills. Because of concerns for safety, however, we are unable to accept anyone whose behavior might endanger themself or others.

Peer Mentors

The Penguin Project utilizes a peer mentor system, linking each young artist who has special needs with an age level peer, who can assist the artists as needed. Peer mentors must be at least 10 years old and can continue up to age 21. The peer mentors work side-by-side with their partners, assisting them throughout the entire rehearsal process and on stage. The peer mentors are responsible for knowing all of the lines, songs, and blocking of their partners. They are on-stage during the production, costumed to match or compliment their partners. They participate in the group production numbers, but are trained to remain “in the background” and provide direct assistance to their partner only as needed.

Families and Adult Volunteers

The Penguin Parents are the backbone of the program. We depend on them to assist their children in learning lines, songs, and dances outside of the rehearsals, since rehearsal times are limited and need to focus on interactive processes rather than memorization. Family members and other adult volunteers also help with production needs including set, costumes, and props. They coordinate the backstage area during the run of the show, and are often called upon to assist the staff at rehearsals.

What to Expect

Both artists and mentors are expected to be at each practice. Practices will be twice a week - a weeknight (TBD) and Saturdays -  1 hour 30 minutes  each starting May 13 through August 25 at Whitaker Center's Sunoco Performance Theater. There will be auditions for main parts, but all artists have a part in the show.   Show dates are August  26 and 27.

Register Here


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