News Column

Theater Co. gives autistic kids chance to shine

August 12, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 12--Local singer and performer Geri Featherby is spreading the acting bug to area children living with autism.

The Roaring Brook Twp. resident and professional entertainer, who sings with jazz band E-City Sounds, has combined her love of performing and her skills as an educator in theater arts and communication in public speaking at North Pocono School District to found the group U Aut 2 Act.

As artistic director and owner, Mrs. Featherby brings autistic children under the age of 18 into the theater world through annual summer workshops supported by Lackawanna County Arts & Culture grants and sponsorships through the Dunmore and North Pocono Rotary clubs.

The group will present a collection of skits called "Superheroes on a Journey" on Friday at noon at its rehearsal space in Arabesque Dance Studio in Moscow. Admission is free to the performance.

Following Friday's presentation at the studio, U Aut 2 Act students also will perform for residents at St. Mary's Villa Residence in Moscow at 2 p.m.

U Aut 2 Act started in 2012 with a pilot, one-week program. This year, Mrs. Featherby opened enrollment to special needs kids in general. Each day, she led students through warmups for voice, body and imagination, and facilitated workshops in which they wrote song parodies, developed characters based on the superhero theme, and created small monologues and skits.

Mrs. Featherby also incorporated a peer buddy system that paired each U Aut 2 Act student with a neurotypical youngster.

"The benefit goes both ways. These young kids who usually wouldn't pay attention to someone with autism are now friends with them," Mrs. Featherby said. "They're seeing they have incredible gifts they can share. It's bringing a level of compassion and empathy to the neurotypical kids. The reaction was so positive."

Mrs. Featherby worked with children with Asperger's before, she noted, and saw the worthwhile challenge in involving autistic children in theater.

"The theater world is so embracing," she said. "It helps that young persons engage in conversation and build a social network of friends."

Contact the writer: pwilding@timesshamrock.com, @pwildingTT on TwitterIf you go

What: "Superheroes on a Journey," presented by U Aut 2 Act

When and where: Friday, noon, Arabesque Dance Studio, 438 Blue Shutters Road, Moscow

Details: Admission is free. For more information about the group, like the fan page on Facebook.

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(c)2013 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)

Visit The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.) at thetimes-tribune.com

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