Theater production giving disabled children chance to shine on stage opens in Murfreesboro

Posted at 5:52 PM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-20 05:35:07-05

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — If you love theater, you know nothing beats taking a bow on stage to the roar of the applause. A new production is opening, making sure all children who want that experience can have it. It's a story about how you can't underestimate anybody.

Wednesday night, lights were up. Costumes ready. Venue set. This was it. The final dress rehearsal.

Director Jamie Storvik said things have come a long way since our last visit to this Peter Pan Jr. production a few months ago. That's when we first met Ace Tarpley, a kid who loves his role.

"Yes, actually," he said with a big grin.

"Ace was made to play Tick Tock Croc," Jamie said.

"I like it cause it's a crocodile. Rawr!" Ace continued. "They're meat eaters!"

Ace has spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

Jamie's brought a chapter of the Penguin Project national program to middle Tennessee. In it, actors of all abilities are paired with volunteer peer mentors to help with their performance.

"Singing and dancing," Ace chimed in.

Back then, Jayla Peebles was unsure of when she and the cast would be ready to take the stage.

"We'll be too nervous!" she laughed.

The months have built confidence and today, a once nervous Jayla is taking on the lead role.

"When she started opening up, I realized, 'yeah, she's our Peter Pan,'" Jamie smiled.

"I actually kinda like it," said Ace, sitting in his crocodile costume.

"How do you feel when you get into character as a crocodile?" we asked.

"Actually, I think I'm a little hungry," he smiled.

There's something key to this success.

"What made the nervousness go away?" we asked Jayla.

"Having fun with people," she said.

There it is.

Together, a cast puts the finishing touches on Murfreesboro Little Theatre's Penguin Project production of Peter Pan Jr. at Mills-Pate Arts Center.

"Is it dangerous to be this close to a crocodile?" we asked Ace.

"Yes! He might bite you!" Ace answered.

"It's important for the children to get experience something that normally would not be available to them," said Jamie. "This makes all the difference in the world to these kids to have an opportunity to come to play, to dance, to sing, to make friends. It means the world to them, just like it means the world to me. It is one of the best things I have ever gotten to do."

The show is debuting at Mills-Pate Arts Center Thursday night. Shows will continue Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon. For ticket information visit here.

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