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“Our Penguins may not be able to fly,
but that does not prevent their spirits from soaring”


The Penguin Project was conceived by Dr. Andrew Morgan to give children with disabilities an opportunity to participate in the performing arts. “Dr. Andy” is a developmental pediatrician and the former Head of the Division of Child Development at the University of Illinois in Peoria. He has also directed and performed in many community theater productions in the area. He created The Penguin Project recognizing that theater not only provides children with a valuable recreational experience and an opportunity to display their creative talents, but also enhances social interaction, communication skills, assertiveness, and self-esteem. The Penguin Project strives to demonstrate that individuals with disabilities are fully capable of participating in community activities with the same dedication and enthusiasm as others, if given opportunity and support.

Young Artists with disabilities

The Penguin Project is open to any individual age 10 to 21 with a developmental disability. This includes children with cognitive, learning, motor, hearing, and visual impairments, genetic disorders, and neurological disorders. There are no restrictions based on the level of cognitive ability, restriction of mobility, or lack of communication skills. Because of concerns for safety, however, we are unable to accept anyone whose behavior might endanger themself or others.


The Penguin Project utilizes a “peer mentor” system, linking each young artist with an age level peer who does not have a disability. Peer mentors must be at least 10 years old and can continue up to age 21. The peer mentors work side-by-side with their partners, assisting them throughout the entire rehearsal process and on stage. The peer mentors are responsible for knowing all of the lines, songs, and blocking of their partners. They are on-stage during the production, costumed to match or compliment their partners. They participate in the group production numbers, but are trained to remain “in the background” and provide direct assistance to their partner only as needed.


The Penguin Parents are the “backbone” of the program. We depend on them to assist their children in learning lines, songs, and dances outside of the rehearsals, since rehearsal times are limited and need to focus on interactive processes rather than memorization. Family members and other adult volunteers also help with production needs including set, costumes, and props. They coordinate the backstage area during the run of the show, and are often called upon to assist the staff at rehearsals.

Meet us & Learn More – Wednesday, May 10

Whitaker Center and Theatre Harrisburg will host a “Meet Us & Learn More” session for interested artists and peer mentors, ages 10-21, and guardians on May 10, 2023 at 5:30 pm at Whitaker Center. This event will include information and expectations about project participation, a question-and-answer period, plus, a fun experience for artists and mentors to work with the director of Annie Jr.  Questions? Contact us at [email protected]

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