The latest New Yorker of the Week gives those living with developmental disabilities a leading role and an opportunity in the spotlight. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
In Brooklyn, performers living with special needs take center stage.
"I love acting," says participant Lizzie Bona-Cohen. "It makes me smile inside."
"I would love to be an actor when I grow up," says participant Gianluca Cirafici.
Fulfilling their dreams is Aubrie Therrien, the creative director of the Brooklyn-based "DreamStreet Theatre Company."
"Persons living with developmental disabilities are often a neglected population," Therrien says. "It's very important for them to have a place where they can be social, where they can be themselves, where they can express themselves and create a community that’s enriching and empowering."
They do just that, through workshops, performances alongside professionals, and their own theatrical productions.
"This is the chance for them to come and be a hero and be Charlotte in Charlotte's Web or be Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream," Therrien says. "It gives you that confidence in yourself to then take what you did on stage, take that applause and bring it out into the real world."
"I just really love to show the world not only what I'm perfectly capable of doing, but I really love to mix and match, explore performance variety," says participant Samantha Elisofon. "I just really love to share my talents with the outside world."
Along the way, these thespians gain new friendships, strengthen their skills and break down stereotypes.
"They're liberated. They're totally free," says R.J. Vershaud, music director at the DreamStreet Theatre Company. "They get to be a whole different person, and they get a sense that they belong in society."
"I love DreamStreet because it shows people in the world that we can be independent, even though we have a disability," Cohen says.
Since 2013, Aubrie has given dozens of New Yorkers a platform to shine and an opportunity to believe in themselves.
"I just learned so much from her, I just love her so much," Elisofon says. "DreamStreet is just like a home sweet home."
"I love Aubrie because she's my favorite teacher in the world," Cirafici says.
So, for providing an inspiration on stage and off, Aubrie Therrien is the latest New Yorker of the Week.