by Jim Boyle


A new partnership between an organization that helps adults with developmental disabilities excel and another that helps people become stars on stage has formed.

Help Other People Excel, or H.O.P.E. as it is known throughout the Elk River Area School District, and Climb Theatre have joined forces to put on a summer musical for adults with special needs.

“H.O.P.E. has asked Climb Theatre to help create this experience, and artistic director Anton Jones has answered with a huge amount of excitement and dedication both financially and creatively to drive this idea to a reality,” Kristina Hess, the  District 728 theater manager, said.

Hess said the event is two-fold:

First, there is a two-week rehearsal period, two hours a day for the registrants (and caregivers) working with Climb Theatre's special-needs trained actors and coaches on a play, “Anansi the Spider,” that Climb adapted for the community’s needs and added a musical element for fun and pizzaz.

Secondly, a sensory-friendly presentation of the musical will be performed at 2 p.m. July 20  at Zabee Theater. The show will open to the public and there will be a small reception afterward.

“We are hoping to fill up the auditorium,” Hess said.

As for the actors, it’s billed as an amazing opportunity. The musical theater production for H.O.P.E. will give students a chance to learn how to run sound and lights and become an actor in the musical production of “Anansi the Spider.”

Anansi the Spider is a master of trickery. Using a rock that has magical powers, Anansi tricks all the animals in the forest out of their suppers. When Anansi tries the clever spotted deer, the tables are turned and Anansi is left with no supper.

Rehearsals are July 8-19 from 5 to 7 p.m. with the performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 20 at Zabee Theater in Elk River High School at 900 School Street.

At least 10 registrants are needed to run the Community Education offering. To register, call 763-241-3520 or visit

The venue is ADA accessible and the show will be relaxed and sensory friendly.

“Our district is committed to engaging learners of all abilities and this is one of our newest initiatives,” Hess said.

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