Moving into its second year, the Illinois Central College Penguin Players program is set to take flight and aims to give more students with special needs, along with their mentors, opportunities to perform on stage and earn college credit.
"We are very excited to once again be offering the Penguin Players program this summer,” said Kari Schimmel, dean of ICC’s Arts and Communication Department. “Last year's production was a great learning experience for everyone involved.”
The Penguin Players was created last year as a collaboration involving Illinois Central College and the Penguin Project, the highly successful local program which gives participants with special needs performing arts opportunities.
ICC’s Penguin Players is patterned after the Penguin Project. However, to allow new children to enter the program, the Penguin Project has an upper age limit. ICC’s Penguin Players program does not have an upper age limit. Participants must be at least 16 years of age and academically accepted to ICC.
"We support the goals of the Penguin Project and recognize the tremendous impact that participation in a theatre production can have on individuals with special needs,” Schimmel said. “We're happy to help these young adults develop their creativity and teamwork skills and want to meet the needs of those individuals who have either aged out of the Penguin Project or are simply seeking additional creative endeavors."
Last year, nearly 20 individuals enrolled and participated in putting together a show as part of the Penguin Players. In addition to cast members, the productions include peer mentors who work with the artists and are present with them on stage during productions. Peer mentors are responsible for knowing all lines, songs and blocking for their partners.
“This year, we are trying to widen our reach by soliciting mentors from areas beyond theatre, such as special education,” Schimmel said. “We recognize that this experience is a compelling learning opportunity for all participants, artists and mentors."
The Penguin Project traditionally holds its performances during the winter. ICC’s Penguin Players program runs during the summer term to avoid conflicts in scheduling. This summer, participants in the ICC program will work with several instructors in the preparation, rehearsing, staging and presentation of a musical in the ICC Performing Arts Center. The Penguin Players program begins with rehearsals on May 4 and culminates with four performances in July.
All participants in Penguin Players productions must be accepted for enrollment at ICC and register with department approval in ICC’s Theatre 220 course, a three credit hour summer semester course. Registration is now open at ICC. To view ICC’s current catalog online, visit Complete 2016 class schedules also are available online at
Schimmel administers the Penguin Players program. Dr. Andrew Morgan, founder of the Penguin Project, serves as a consultant for the Penguin Players. For more information about ICC Penguin Players, contact Schimmel at (309) 694-5113 or
This year’s production is Fame, Jr., which was conceived and developed by David DeSilva. It is an adapted version of Fame set during the last years of New York City's celebrated High School for the Performing Arts in the early 1980s. The show is the bittersweet but ultimately inspiring story of a diverse group of students who commit to four years of grueling artistic and academic work.
            Fame, Jr. is based on the book by José Fernandez. Music for the show is by Steve Margoshes and lyrics are by Jacques Levy. The play is being produced with special arrangement by Music Theatre International.
The ICC production is directed by Sarah Salazar.

            Performances of Fame, Jr. by the Penguin Players are July 21 through 23 at 7:30 pm and July 24 at 2:30 pm. Tickets cost $10 for all ages and can be purchased online at or through the ICC Performing Arts Center Box Office.


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