Buzz Worthy

Asolo program reaches out

For the past few summers, I’ve had the opportunity to cover a wonderful musical theater program called Kaleidoscope. The 16-year-old program — a partnership between Asolo Repertory Theatre and the Community Haven — caters to developmentally challenged teenagers and adults, expanding their horizons through music and dance.

This year, Kaleidoscope is taking on a different form, expanding into local organizations and schools. Now the Easter Seals of Southwest Florida and the special education departments of Bayshore High School and Oak Park School are getting involved, too. The best part is that the program, which has been normally held at Asolo Rep, will come to the participants’ schools. This will allow the roughly month-long program to be extended to 12 weeks.

The change will allow the program to grow during a rough economy where additional funding is often hard to come by.

“Kaleidoscope was ready to evolve into a broader, deeper, longer lasting initiative,” said Brian Hersh, Asolo Rep’s education and outreach director. “This growth means we can engage, include and help more people in more ways.”

From an outsider’s point of view, Kaleidoscope is like the hit Fox TV show “Glee” because it empowers those involved through music and movement.

I’ve witness some of Kaleidoscope’s past participants come in shy, sometimes with limited ability to communicate or move. Then, by the end of the program, they’ve blossomed. They smile more, they move more and are more vocal. By the time they hit the Asolo stage, you can tell they feel like a star.

With the new and improved version of the program, Asolo Rep will provide each site with resident teaching artists who will use their performing arts skills to devise a unique multiple-layer artistic showcase for the stage.

Just like in years past, Kaleidoscope will end with a grand performance at Asolo Rep’s Mertz Theatre on Dec. 6. Plan to be amazed.