In June, the Summer Theatre of New Canaan is creating a musical theatre pilot program for Special Needs students as part of its 2011 Summer Theater Festival at Waveny Park in New Canaan. This program will be unique, using professional actors to mentor these thespians through the rehearsal and performance process.

During the month of June, up to 20 students ages 8 to 17 will rehearse with a director, music director and choreographer and the professional cast of actors currently performing in the Summer Theatre show, "A Year With Frog and Toad." These professional artists will help students to learn and perform the roles and assist them as needed in putting on a performance on June 30 at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan tent theatre in Waveny Park for friends, family and those wishing to support this program.

Last summer, Melody Libonati, artistic director for the Summer Theatre of New Canaan, was inspired while watching a special performance of STONC's Theatre for a Young Audience show, SEUSSICAL. This performance was held specifically for families with special needs children.

"We wanted to celebrate this community with a live theater experience for the students and their families," she said. "What we learned is that many of these children wanted to be in the show. We want to satisfy this need."

The Summer Theatre of New Canaan intends to launch this pilot project to provide the opportunity to rehearse and perform roles in a performance while being mentored by professional actors and staff. Helping the Summer Theatre of New Canaan to reach out to the special needs community for this program are Arts for Healing, the New Canaan YMCA and the New Canaan Public School System. Karen Nisenson, from Arts for Healing will provide the students with musical direction. Also, an appearance by the Rubber Band from STAR INC, Lighting the Way, based in Norwalk, will perform for the audience prior to this performance.

STONC seeks family and individual sponsors of the pilot program. Contact STONC for more information. Summer Theatre of New Canaan is a professional nonprofit performing arts organization. Visit A student tuition commitment fee for the program is $240 to help defray costs. Need based scholarships may be available.

To apply or for more information on the special needs pilot theatre program contact Libonati at or 203-966-4634.

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