LONG LAKE- The standing ovations were exuberant following sold-out performances of "A Year With Frog and Toad: The Musical", a colorful and magical musical comedy performed by Long Lake students and clients with disabilities of the Sunmount DDSO, at the Long Lake Central School, Friday and Saturday evening, April 23 and 24. Audiences delighted in the jazzy score performed enthusiastically by the cast, the whimsical costumes, and show-stopping choreography.
Under the clever direction of Stephen Svoboda, the story follows the yearlong adventures of Frog and Toad, the original odd-couple who, despite their conflicts, are affectionate and loyal friends to the end.
"The story of Frog and Toad is about two very different amphibians discovering the meaning of friendship. I thought it was appropriate for these two very different groups [students and clients] to explore the meaning of that story together", said Svoboda.
Set in a colorful marsh, the play opened with the "birds" coming out at the end of winter, ready for spring. Frog and Toad encounter a series of crises including Toad's humiliation at "looking funny in a bathing suit", their shame at eating too many cookies leaving nothing for dessert, and Toad's frustration at finding his mailbox empty. Frog decides to write a letter to Toad, and asks the "snails" to deliver it. Throughout the play, the hilarious snails' scene-stealing, slow motion appearances provided some of the production's musical peaks.
In an unprecedented collaboration between Stephen Svoboda, Executive Director, Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, Natalie Luxford, Director Sunmount DDSO Long Lake and Speculator, and Mary Jo Dickerson, Superintendent, Long Lake Central School, they felt the play would provide a unique theatre experience that could bring together two different communities within our region that have often existed in separate worlds. Clients of Sunmount and Long Lake students worked together throughout the entire process, from rehearsing music and scenes, to building sets and costumes behind the scenes.
When asked what inspired this collaboration Svoboda explained, "When working in Miami I had the pleasure of working with a young girl named Nora who is autistic. She had been removed from regular school and sent to a school for people with disabilities. After 8 years of working on our summer theater program Nora is now attending a performing arts high school. Theater has the power to help people communicate despite language barriers or disabilities. It also brings people together as a team to create a piece of art. Unlike painting, or writing a novel, in order to create a piece of theater you have to have collaboration, it is why I love the art form, I knew having students collaborate with individuals with disabilities would help both groups to move past their difference and find common ground in working for a common goal."
Luxford described her feelings following the play," The final outcome left you feeling that you had witnessed something special; both the audience & the performers just knew they were a part of a grandeur scheme." When asked if they'd repeat a similar experience she offered," Oh, we're going to do this again, there's no doubt about it. As the rehearsals were winding down, the cast members, LLCS/Sunmount staff and ALCA staff were already planning next year's agenda."
Svoboda added, "We certainly hope to continue this program. The Arts Center has started the Living Able Series, which provides workshops and performance opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the Adirondack Region. This summer we will be conducting weekly workshops with consumers from Sunmount as well as hosting a performance by Flame, a rock band made up of individuals with disabilities."
This program was made possible with funds from the Local Capacity Building Initiative, a regrant program of the Arts In Education program of the New York State Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Adirondack Arts in Education Partnership, a program of the Depot Theatre in Westport, New York.
For more information on the Living Able Series, call Stephen Svoboda at Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, 352-7715 or check out www.adirondackarts.org