Penguin Project Performs

WILLIAMSPORT -- A very special run of "Beauty and the Beast Junior" will be performed this weekend at a theater in Williamsport.

Instead of one actor on stage for each part, there will be two.

The group of actors in Community Theatre League's Penguin Project are ready to hit the main stage, but this cast of characters is unique.

Many of the children in this show have been diagnosed with varying disabilities, including autism and Down Syndrome.

"When I heard about it, I said I want him on there. He's loving it and coming out of his shell even more," said parent Helen Rittenhouse.

Many members of the production team work with people who have mental disabilities and know with every child comes a different need.

The Beast costume came with a wig, but the production team quickly found out that a cotton hat may be more comfortable for their artist.

"See how there is netting in here and this is almost like burlap? This for many kids is rough and itchy, and they can't tolerate this," said director Elizabeth Dixon.

Sometimes, Jonathan Rittenhouse needs help from his mom to put on his costume, but the 20 year old has his lines memorized.

Jonathan won't be alone on stage. Every artist in this show is paired with a peer mentor, someone who can be there just in case.

"The mentors they are so amazing. They help side by side with their artist and they become friends," Dixon said.

Sometimes Dylan Eck works with Jonathan.

"Definitely when we do songs and dances. He loves to dance, and he definitely loves doing whatever he feels like doing and it's great," Eck said.

"We are actually getting more than they are getting from us because of what they give every time they come in," Dixon added.

The show runs this weekend in Williamsport.