MMI theater camp expands opportunities for clients

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | January 10, 2017

Image with caption: Performers take their bows at the Jan. 6 premiere of

Performers take their bows at the Jan. 6 premiere of "Join Us in the Jungle," the show that concluded MMI's inaugural theater camp.

More than 175 people turned out Jan. 6 to attend a performance by the participants of the Munroe-Meyer Institute's first Winter Theater Camp.

MMI's Department of Recreational Therapy teamed with WhyArts, a arts organization based at the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Engagement Center, to hold the camp for children and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Longtime partner J.P. Lord contributed the rehearsal and performance space.

See a photo album of the camp and performance.

The performance, called "Join Us in the Jungle," followed a safari, and was a culmination of the camp's activities, which ran from Jan. 4-6. The show was adapted by the performers from a children's book. The 25 participants, ranging in age from 6 to 24, also created the sets and some of the props.

"It was amazing," said Beth Wakehouse, mother of KellieLynn Wakehouse, who performed in the event. "And it gave so many of the different kids a different way to speak and to be able to participate in things that you generally don't see them do in the community.

"She was really apprehensive about doing this, but she's loved it," Wakehouse said. "She can't wait to sign up for the next one, and she's in the process of getting a communication device, so she said next time she'd like to do a speaking role and try that out. I'm glad to see her willing to pursue even more things."

Michael Crawford, Ph.D., director of recreational therapy at MMI, was pleased with the inaugural theater camp.

"We have many talented and creative young people who receive services at MMI, and this new initiative offers another avenue for them to shine," he said.

Carolyn Anderson, director of WhyArts, said she was excited by the new collaboration with MMI, which will continue going forward with spring and summer theater camps.

"We are thrilled about working with Munroe-Meyer on this project," Anderson said. "We are passionate about the same audience. We work with underserved populations, and people with disabilities are a major focus."

The benefits of art on brain development and function have been well documented, said MMI Director Karoly Mirnics, M.D., Ph.D. But also -- everyone had fun.

"We and our community partners share a belief that we must provide opportunities to grow in our community, including atypically developing individuals," he said. "It is amazing to see the participants come out of their comfort zone and enjoy something that they were never involved in before."

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Leanne Whetstone
January 11, 2017 at 7:34 PM

Great program!

Graciela Sharif
January 10, 2017 at 12:51 PM

how are you advertising this camp? just want to make sure my son does not miss the next opportunity; he would love to participate. Graciela

CarrieLynn Howard
January 10, 2017 at 10:37 AM

This is wonderful.

Dot North
January 10, 2017 at 9:48 AM

This is wonderful! What a great idea and happy to see that it is going to continue!

Gerri Sullivan
January 10, 2017 at 9:33 AM

Most talented and awesome performance I have ever seen!