Now Casting: Special Needs Adults and Students

Feb 18, 2016

The list of extracurricular activities for kids these days is almost endless, but for many years opportunities to sing, dance, act, and perform excluded kids with special needs. And when those kids become adults, those opportunities are even harder to find.

Janet Schlapkohl founded Combined Efforts Theatre in 2002 while she was co-producing high school theater productions at City High in Iowa City because she wanted to make those opportunities a little bit easier to find. She was a special education teacher and wanted her students to have a chance to perform. They wanted to try, and she saw that they had talent. 

"The brilliance of it is that they are held up for everybody’s view when they’re able to be laughed at because of the role they’re doing, when it’s okay to look," Schlapkohl says. "How many times do you hear people say, 'don't stare honey, don’t look honey?' You become invisible when people won’t look at you. When you’re on stage, you’re forcing everyone to take a good, long look at what you’re capable of doing."

Nearly 15 years later, the organization has hired a new artistic director and offers several opportunities every year for students and adults with autism and other disabilities to perform on stage. During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Schlapkohl about the program. Dr. Chris Okishii and Kalvin Goodlaxen, who both work with Combined Efforts also join the program. 

Combined Efforts' next performance is scheduled for February 29 at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30. Find more information here. 

During the second part of this hour of Talk of Iowa, Nebbe talks with Liz Gilman of Produce Iowa and Christ Ebert Vrtis of the Oneota Film Festival about Iowa's film festival season.