By Rob Cox Daily News
Greensburg Daily News
---- — GREENSBURG — They sang; they danced; they joined in worship at the First Church of Elvis.
It wasn’t the ritual of some underground society though, nor some bizarre religious cult who gathered at the First Baptist Church Monday night. Rather, it was the Front and Center Players of Decatur County, taking the stage of the church’s Family Life Center to present “On with the Show II,” the group’s second annual variety show.
The event is presented by the Arc of Decatur County in conjunction with Developmental Services, Inc. (DSI) of Decatur County. Lynda Smith, president of the Arc of Decatur County, told the Daily News that the show featured 16 performers, ranging in age from 20 to 55, all intellectually and/or developmentally disabled.
The production, billed as “A Riotous Variety Show,” was written entirely by the cast, Smith said. Actor Jeff Kuehl of the Columbus Area Arts Council, directed. Kuehl also directed last year’s inaugural show.
“Jeff worked with the group, finding their talents and helping them create and produce a fun show,” Smith said. “We’re so happy he agreed to return this year to direct and produce this show with an even larger cast.”
The production featured “seven or eight” mostly country and rock numbers, but also included at least one show tune from the “The Sound of Music.” “We’re all in this together,” “Hand Jive,” “Long Black Train,” “Hey Girl,” “Teddy Bear” and “Climb Every Mountain” were among the songs performed Monday night, according to Smith. There were also lip synching and dancing acts.
The evening also featured an ongoing site-gag with a tennis racket and a performance by a group of Front and Center Players in full dress uniform as Indianapolis Colt cheerleaders
The show’s feature presentation, however, was a skit entitled, “The First Church of Elvis.” “Churchgoers” – all members of the cast – gathered to hear a sermon by none other than the King of Rock-and-Roll himself.
“Food was the topic of the sermon,” Smith said. “It was very funny.”
There were at least 80 people in the audience, Smith said, including family members, friends and other intellectually and/or developmentally disabled individuals from around Greensburg and Decatur County.
Smith offered special recognition and “thank yous” to DSI employees Jenny Maddux, Carrie Shumaker, Brian Collins, without whom, she said, the production wouldn’t have been possible.
“These are three people who work all day at DSI and then they show up faithfully at all the practices and performances,” Smith said. Those practices started Oct. 7 and were held every Monday all the way through the day of the performance.
“They [Maddux, Shumaker and Collins] did all the behind-the-scenes work,” Smith continued. “They’re not paid well, but they turn around and give their free time to this and other activities. They so want to see their clients get these opportunities and succeed.”
From Smith’s perspective, the evening was a huge success in that regard. “There are so many therapeutic benefits for the performers who participate,” she said. “It helps build speech, poise, confidence and personality. It provides an important outlet for self-expression and interaction with other people. Some of these people – especially the older ones – might never have had an opportunity like this.”
She continued, “Special Olympics is a big event in Decatur County and it’s very inclusive and is a great program, but it’s like anything else in life; some people enjoy and have a natural talent for certain activities more than others.”
One of the show’s older participants, Smith said in example, was at first extremely hesitant to participate in the production, initially approaching it with an almost-curmudgeonly attitude. This individual, however, blossomed on Monday night, reveling in the spotlight and greatly enjoying the chance to perform.
“We hadn’t seen that side of his personality in a long time,” Smith said. “It was wonderful to see. He was like an entirely different person.”
The Arc president also thanked Greensburg’s Psi Iota Xi Sorority, who awarded a substantial grant to help make the project possible. She also thanked First Baptist Church of Greensburg for donating the use of its Family Life Center.
“We certainly hope to keep this as an annual event,” Smith said. “So we hope we can continue to find sponsors. It’s such an important event for these performers.”
For more information on the Arc of Decatur County visit thearkofdecaturcounty.org. For more information on DSI of Decatur County, visit http://www.dsiservices.org/.
Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011