BETHANY — Two-year-old Jeremiah Friend, a patient at The Children's Center, loves to put on a good show. His bubbly personality and infectious smile can light up any room.
Jeremiah recently took his performance skills center stage with performers from Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma to share the legacy of one of Oklahoma's most famous natives, Will Rogers. The theater group visited the hospital as part of its Musical Interactive program.
The performance was a combined effort between Lyric Theatre and the hospital to educate patients by involving them in the show.
Jeremiah, who has Down syndrome, took part in the production, introducing each chapter of the musical. A small feat for some, for Jeremiah it was his chance to shine.
“This is exciting for our children,” said DeLisa Manley, special education coordinator at The Children's Center. “Not only do they get to see a Broadway-style production, but they get to become stars themselves.”
The Lyric Theatre program is presented free to any school requesting a performance. It focuses on Rogers' life as a vaudevillian, politician and radio personality. Students learn about a variety of subjects including the arts, political history, Oklahoma history, U.S. history and even a rope trick or two.
“Instead of presenting a show where the actors are the entertainers and the students are the audience, Musical Interactive succeeds in creating a program of which the children feel they are a part,” said Michaela Webb, public relations manager at Lyric Theatre.
“They interact with the students by teaching them dance steps, involving them in part of the storyline, conducting a singalong and much more.”
Interaction is key
Lyric's arts outreach program, underwritten by Devon Energy Corp., is a unique touring performance program featuring an original script with select traditional songs that are appropriate for the subject of the production and are recognizable to students. Actors entertain and educate students about historical facts and figures that surround a historical event or period.
It is this type of interaction that Manley says is beneficial to children such at Jeremiah.
“It's lovely having guest performers entertain our patients,” Manley said. “The children enjoy having visitors, especially those in character, singing, dancing and making them smile.”
The Children's Center is a nonprofit pediatric hospital dedicated to helping children with complex medical and physical disabilities maximize their potential.
Melissa Richey is communications and media coordinator for The Children's Center.