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Acting Without Boundaries Puts On Excellent Production of Mary Poppins

Samantha Biglin, Staff Writer

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On Sunday, October 14th, the charity theater troupe Acting Without Boundaries put on an inspiring abridged production of the well-loved classic Mary Poppins. The show is heartwarming to watch, not only because of its wonder-filled message, but because of the obvious kinship of the cast and crew.

Acting Without Boundaries, or AWB, was founded in 2004 by Christine Rouse, a woman with the muscular disorder cerebral palsy and a lifelong love for theater. Rouse sought to provide opportunities for people with similar disabilities to participate in theater, both onstage and off.

The concept behind the organization is that it allows people with physical disabilities (who would otherwise not be able to partake in theater) to be a part of a theater company and put on one show a year. The only requirements are that you have a physical disability and you are able to memorize lines.

However, it is not all about the acting. Overwhelming feedback from members of the cast and crew reveals that AWB provides a strong sense of community by connecting them with others who can better empathize with their struggles.

Each year, the AWB process begins in the summer. Volunteers spend a week discussing how, logistically, they can most efficiently assist the cast and give them the best possible experience. For some, this is the opportunity of a lifetime, and the volunteers aim to make it special for the cast. After the first intensive week of planning, the troupe rehearses once a month and puts on one production a year.

They have the opportunity to perform in front of a summer camp run in the the Haverford School, and then a performance in early fall.

Although the show itself is wonderful, the palpable interconnectedness of the cast is what truly stands out. Every member varies in age, hometown, and ability, but they seem entirely at ease with one another. They display a unique degree of openness and collaboration that is incredibly touching to behold.

One cast member named Simon, a multi-instrumentalist, excelling in piano and voice at only 16 who happens to be blind, plays the part of the pillar, which involves a singing solo in the play’s park scene. He comments about AWB and what it means to the cast: “In a world where I look like me, and I have to function differently, it can be hard to feel normal. But when I am surrounded here by all these awesome people, it really helps me build my self-confidence and sense of self, and it really lets me connect with a people I never would have met otherwise.”

The show itself is an enlightening and interesting experience. In a cast where many of the members can’t walk, “Step in Time” features part of the iconic tap number from some of the leading members of the cast. There are some excellent British accents, especially from Mary Poppins (played by the lovely Hannah Brannau), who delivers her lines sharply and with a strong sense of character.

The most beautiful moment, however, does not come from this sharp and witty lead. Lauren Gretz’s portrayal of Mrs. Banks is easily the most memorable performance of the night. She gives a heartfelt rendition of “Being Mrs. Banks.” Her gorgeous soprano voice fits the song perfectly and showcases the deepest, most honest emotion of the show.

If you are interested in joining AWB or know someone who may want to participate, either as an actor or as a volunteer, the application process is relatively simple. On the AWB website, you may submit an application or contact the company.

This production is truly a joy and I recommend all future shows to all.

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Acting Without Boundaries Puts On Excellent Production of Mary Poppins