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Thanks to mentors, kids with special needs will take the spotlight in the Kalamazoo Civic's "Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr.”

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Casey Spring
Kalamazoo Civic
The cast of "Schoolhouse Rock Live Junior"
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Casey Spring
Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
Performing "I'm Just A Bill"

Designed to give kids with a range of special needs a chance to show their unique abilities on stage, the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre’s production of Schoolhouse Rock Live! Jr. is a partnership with The Penguin Project, a national program that gives community theaters the tools and training they need to include kids of all abilities in theater.

In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, Director of Education and Outreach AnnMarie Miller says the key component is mentorship. Each performer is paired with a mentor/guide of a similar age who stay with the performers throughout rehearsal and on stage during shows. It's been a moving experience, she says, to observe acts of kindness and support between the pairs.

The show is based on the Emmy Award-winning Saturday morning education cartoon series Schoolhouse Rock!. The cast of 28 will perform several favorite songs from the series, including Conjunction Junction, Just a Bill, and more. It's all part of the story of a young schoolteacher named Tom who is nervous about his first day of teaching. He tries to relax by watching TV — and characters pop off the screen.

Tickets and more information for the production, which runs March 11-20, are at this link.