Last Monday evening I had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall at the Totally Awesome Players rehearsal here at the Delaware Theatre Company. Totally Awesome Players, or TAP, is an acting troupe for people with intellectual disabilities led by our stellar education department — Director of Education and Community Engagement, Charles Conway and Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement, Johanna Schloss — as well as eight volunteers. This year’s 39 member TAP troupe is divided into two groups of 19 performers, with each ensemble-created play based on a central theme. This session’s theme was inspired by a quote from our upcoming DTC production of Crowns: “Hats are like people: Sometimes they reveal and sometimes they conceal.” The first group, directed by Charlie, began rehearsing their show on the stage, entitled Take Off the Hats written by TAP volunteer, published writer, and lovely human being, Jane McFann. Jane also stars as a story-teller in this piece, with clever verse and strong ensemble-structure.

Charlie’s group was busily preparing the first piece Take Off the Hats, a 15-20 minute play that will be performed next Tuesday night at 7:30pm on the Delaware Theatre Company stage. The show centers on a group of “mysterious strangers” (all donning hats, of course) who arrive in a community divided by the overuse of technology. These ‘strangers’ guide the townspeople in recognizing their similarities and allow the community to overcome their dependence on technology. Watching the enthusiasm of both the volunteers (who perform along with the participants) and the performers themselves — a few of which are non-verbal — was truly inspiring. I have to say my favorite part was the Soul Train-esque dance line-up to the Bruno Mars song “Just the Way You Are.” I couldn’t help but tear-up, it was so heartfelt and genuine and such an example of what theatre should be — deeply-felt, honest and FUN.  

The second show, Everyday Superheroes, written and directed by Johanna, centers on a group of superheroes who decide to go incognito and have to save the day when the town goes awry without them. Johanna has created such an endearing, hilarious, beautifully-choreographed piece. Check out Content Delaware’s incredible video to see a sneak peek at these two shows. (Thanks, Delaware Division of the Arts and Content Delaware!) Prior to the rehearsal, I got to sit in on these interviews. As seen in the video, TAP Performer Elizabeth Nolan, age 24, who’s been involved as a performer in TAP since its inception in 1992, and her mother, Mary Ann, were interviewed by Content DE’s Dan Rosenthal regarding their experiences in this program. It was so incredibly lovely to see the pride that both Elizabeth and her mother share for this troupe, and how she has grown tremendously both socially and as a theatre performer. (Note: Elizabeth plays ‘SuperFan’- a cheerleader with a strong affinity for badminton, in Everyday Superheroes).

Something that I found so profoundly inspiring about the entire program was the sense of support and enthusiasm I felt from all participants. While Elizabeth and I were watching the rehearsal of Take Off the Hats, Elizabeth was busily signing “Good job!” to her friend Maggie who was rehearsing on stage. Honestly, we could all learn a serious lesson in support, encouragement, and embracing life from this phenomenal program. I know I did.

IF YOU GO (And you should- really):

Totally Awesome Players performance:

Tuesday, March 6th at 7:30pm Delaware Theatre Company stage Tickets are $5 in advance, or at the door; DTC Box Office: (302)594-1104

-Amanda Curry Audience Services Manager and Marketing Associate