There’s no place like the stage for the more than 100 artists and mentors who make up the cast of this year’s Penguin Project of Sun Prairie Civic Theatre production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

The beloved story of Dorothy making her way along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City will come to life through a musical theatre program that is a creative home for young performers with special needs or disabilities who wouldn’t otherwise be given the opportunity to perform in a musical theatre production. One of those artists is Kaden Laws, a sixth grader from Lake Mills and mentor Kaleb Koester, eighth grader from Lake Mills.

“The experience of performing is accessible to everyone thanks to our volunteers, who offer individualized encouragement and support to make the performance experience possible,” said Sara Beth Hahner, executive director for the Penguin Project. “And audiences experience the magic of musical theatre thanks to the energy, talent and joy that radiates from our performers.”

Since 2016, artists from the greater Madison area have taken the stage once a year to perform a modified version of a well-known Broadway musical. These artists are joined on the stage by their youth mentors — peer volunteers who work with them side by side during five months of rehearsals. The mentors are responsible for knowing the lines, songs, and blocking of their artists, but appear “in the background” to provide direct assistance only as needed. The Penguin Project enhances social interaction, strengthens communication skills and boosts self-confidence. It also provides an opportunity to create lasting friendships and to be a part of the performing arts community.

Members of the Lake Mills music community are rallying around this project. The Tri-M Music Honor Society has donated $500 to the Penguin Project to be received at the Saturday performance.

Performances of “The Wizard of Oz” are June 21 and 22 at 7 p.m., and June 23 at 2 p.m. at the Sun Prairie Performing Arts Center, located at Sun Prairie High School, 888 Grove Street, in Sun Prairie. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at www.sunprairiecivictheatre.com or at The Piano Gal on Main Street in downtown Sun Prairie. Any remaining tickets may be purchased at the door prior to the performance. Cost is $16 per adult, $13 for seniors 55 or older, and $11 for students with a valid ID. All seats are general admission.

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