Jesters’ “City of Heroes” inspires everyday stars
After two packed nights in Wesley Hall, the curtain has closed on another fun-filled Jesters performance!
For their seventh annual show, the cast and crew discovered what it was like to live with super powers, from “Kara the Powerful,” a superhero who can shoot lasers from her eyes, to “Sparkshocker,” a super villain who stops his opponents cold with electrical shocks.
Jesters is a theater program for teens and adults with special needs at Highland Park United Methodist Church. The cast and crew write and star in an original play, with help from professional directors. The team gathers at the start of each season to dream up what the new show will be about, drawing inspiration from personal experiences and concerns surrounding current events.
Highlighting Everyday Heroes
“This gives them a platform that is not always available to them from which to share their thoughts, ideas and life experiences with the larger community,” says Liz Irwin, director of the Jesters program at HPUMC. “World events affect this group just as much as they affect the rest of us. This year especially, our actors wanted the opportunity to share their thoughts on some very big issues facing our country today.”
Those issues include everything from immigration to the role of police, the media, and the idea of sacrifice. At the same time, many of the cast wanted to know what it might be like to have super powers. So with these key themes in place, the idea for “City of Heroes” was born. Each actor selected his super power and/or occupation, and the plot for the musical rapidly grew from there.
While some of the cast discovered what it was like to have superhuman strength, or the ability to fly, others chose to highlight the everyday heroes in our lives, like doctors, police officers, and coaches. The message was clear: you don’t have to have superpowers to be a hero!
More Than Just A Theater Program
While the theme may change each year, the one thing that never changes is the impact the actors and crew have on the audience. It’s impossible to watch the talent performing on stage without realizing how much these individuals with special needs can accomplish when they’re supported and given the opportunity to shine.
Jesters gives these actors a chance to show people a window into who they are, beyond their disability or diagnosis. Their personalities bring their characters to life, and they work together to help showcase each other’s talents. By the end of each show, the entire audience is wildly applauding their accomplishments – from singing to dancing to sometimes just the delivery of a memorized line.
Help a Hero: Now Casting Volunteers
Sound like something you might want to be part of? Jesters, along with HPUMC’s Special Needs Ministry as a whole, is always looking for volunteers! The best part is that you don’t have to be an award-winning actor or playwright to join the fun.
“Our Jesters volunteers are some of the most generous and dedicated people I have ever met,” says Liz. “Jesters changes our perspective on what is possible. I think all of our hearts double over the year we spend with the cast.”
“The gift of your time and willingness to learn as you go are the only two real essentials to be a Jesters volunteer,” says Liz. “We build the entire show from the ground up every time, so every year even our most seasoned volunteers are learning new things. Don't let a lack of theater knowledge or inexperience with the special needs community hold you back. At Jesters, we all need a little help from our friends.”