By Ed Stannard, New Haven Register
Seven years ago, few of these young people with intellectual disabilities, including Down syndrome and autism, would have had the confidence to get onto a stage, singing and dancing.
Now, through the Play with Grace program at the Whitney Center, they’re out there, waving their arms, singing their hearts out. A trombonist plays in the corner.
That goes for their mentors, too — playing keyboards, announcing the next performer — volunteering in love and service to help their partners out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
Led by Dianne Pacl, Carmelina Mosher and Jarrod Law — none of whom takes a salary — the clients and their mentors turn out amazingly fresh, original shows twice a year.
While there are examples of kindness going on all over the room, it’s this trio that brings it all together — Pacl a human services professional; Mosher an expressive arts and traditional psychotherapist; Law a nonverbal artist with autism, who has written music and words and does a great deal to unify the productions based on each client’s interests and the characters they choose.
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This spring’s choral production, “Songs of Life,” features Law as the Stargazer, his character, or avatar. He is “the bridge between all of us,” says Pacl, who works with him daily. “He’s amazing and artistic and very kind.” He contributed to much of the show, which is all original music.