The Melmark Players: Actors with Disabilities Shine During Three-Night Run

by Patricia Bradford
The Melmark Players in a scene from TITANIC.

The Melmark Players in a scene from TITANIC.

Dress rehearsals, tweaks to choreography and costume adjustments – they’re all things you expect before any Broadway Show.  The days leading up to The Melmark Players’ three-night run were no different than what you’d find backstage at any New York City Theatre.  The only difference –  The Melmark Players work a little harder to learn their lines and dance moves than most actors and actresses.

The Players is an acting troupe comprised of over 40 adults from Melmark’s Meadows Program, which serves people with intellectual disabilities and autism.  Each member of The Players enjoys acting and musical theatre, and many have been performing for over 15 years.

During their first production of 2013, MELMARK’S MOVIE MEDLEY, more seasoned actors were paired with newer members of the cast.  By mentoring and teaching, they demonstrated what is possible on stage.  Veteran performers encouraged the newer cast members to find confidence in their abilities, while increasing their own.  With the development of new skills came a new level of confidence, allowing each Player to provide his or her own special touch to the song selections.

“The growth we saw in each individual during rehearsals was extraordinary,” said Melanie Tabakin, Melmark Players Director.  “Each actor and actress worked hard to learn their lines and to practice the choreography, and they even offered suggestions on what moves to add and change as we went along.”

MELMARK’S MOVIE MEDLEY ran from June 13th to June 15th on The Players’ Stage at Melmark, located in Berwyn.  The production featured songs from big screen favorites like Footloose, Jailhouse Rock and Titanic.  The musical numbers showcased each Player’s abilities, from dancing to comedic timing to character interpretation.

Bill has been a member of The Melmark Players since its inception.  He says the plays give him an opportunity to give back to the community. “I love to show the audience my talents,” said Bill.  “Sometimes they laugh, and sometimes they cry when they see us perform.  I love being an actor.”

The Melmark Players (group photo)

The Melmark Players (group photo)

The Players perform two full-length musicals each year.  Liza Jones, Director of The Meadows Program, says The Players would love to expand their reach. “Among The Players’ greatest moments were when they performed at The Arden Theatre in Philadelphia and The DuPont Theatre in Wilmington,” said Jones.  “The real dream for The Players is to have more performances at area theatres and even appear on a Broadway Stage.”

Melmark is a comprehensive multi-service agency, providing residential, educational, therapeutic and recreational services for children and adults with autism, intellectual disabilities, brain injuries and other neurological and genetic diagnoses. Melmark’s varied programs promote independence, increased self-awareness and confidence while offering participants the opportunity to make friends and develop personal interests.   To learn more and to see video of past Melmark Players’ performances, visit .

Directed by Melanie Tabakin

June 13-15, 2013
The Melmark Players

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