Theatre eXceptional, a branch Blue Butterfly Productions, is a non-profit professional theatre company in Largo, FL that trains, casts, and hires adults with disabilities for their shows. Grosh had the privilege to speak to Brianna Larson, the Artistic Director and Founder, to learn more about the admirable work they are doing through this program.
The mission of Theatre eXceptional is to produce work that is for, about, and including artists with disabilities. One of the ways they accomplish this is through educational programs, including theatre classes and training in a variety of genres, ranging from improv to Shakespere. Local professional actors come alongside them to help provide mentorship and teaching.
Ms. Larson also explained that they work hard to pick shows that are focused on the disability community, such as Children of a Lesser God, which is a famous show about the deaf community, or a production of Our Town, which they portrayed through the lens of autism and the majority of the cast was actors with autism. Each Spring, Theatre eXceptional also produces a major musical in which the cast of the show is entirely made up of actors with disabilities. They are preparing for their upcoming productions of Of Mice and Men in May and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamCoat in September. Theatre eXceptional has built a reputation in the community for the professional quality of all their productions.
Beyond just providing training opportunities and skill development to audition for future professional productions, Brianna Larson explained that the actors with disabilities who are cast in their shows are hired and compensated in the same way that any other actor they hire would be. According to Ms. Larson, “We’ve found that the skills and training you get in theatre and performing arts are really invaluable… It’s speech therapy, physical therapy, socialization, appropriate emotional expression.” Many Theatre eXceptional students have gone on to perform in other community theatre programs with the skills they’ve learned here.
Grosh is proud to award the Runner Up prize of the Grosh Cares Grant to Theatre eXceptional. They have received a $1,000 cash award and $500 credit towards hand painted or projected backdrop rentals. Congratulations! You can learn more about Theatre eXceptional and Blue Butterfly Productions on their website at //www.bluebutterflyproductions.org/theatre-exceptional.