SPECIAL FOR THE AJT//

From March 7 to 17, Jerry’s Habima Theatre – Georgia’s only theatrical company directed and produced by professionals and featuring actors with developmental disabilities – will celebrate its 20th-anniversary season with the ’50s-style musical “Grease: The School Version.”

“Grease” stars Josh Howland as Danny and Bess Winebarger as Sandy. PHOTO / PeachtreePix.com

“Grease” stars Josh Howland as Danny and Bess Winebarger as Sandy. PHOTO / PeachtreePix.com

The company, recently featured in “American Theatre Magazine,” was the 2007 recipient of the Spirit of Suzi Bass Award for its long-term contribution to professionalism in Atlanta theater. As a founding chair, Saba Silverman has keen insight on the impact Jerry’s Habima Theatre has made.

“Unless you have been a part of this remarkable theater over the past 20 years, it is hard to understand the magnitude of emotions that are felt by the actors, their families and the audiences,” Silverman said. “Twenty years ago, I had to beg my friends to come and donate some money to support the show, and now Habima is a nationally-acclaimed, annual event that is a ‘go-to’ for Atlanta audiences.

“It has gone beyond my wildest dreams, and I am so amazed and awed each time I see a performance. I leave every show with a huge smile on my face.”

A program of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA), Jerry’s Habima Theatre performances are put on under the auspices of the Center’s Blonder Family Department for Developmental Disabilities as well as the Department of Arts & Culture.

Each year, together with local professional actors from the community, company performers (ages 18-plus) present a Broadway musical. Directed by Dina Shadwell, the productions also feature local theater artists as well as interns from the MJCCA’s theater company, Company J.

The participants of this special theater company achieve new levels of self-confidence, motivation and socialization from the intensive three-month process of rehearsals and performances. The unique program provides a wonderful opportunity for developing new skills through a meaningful theater experience.

“What makes me so proud of Jerry’s Habima Theatre is that it provides a safe place for self-expression, allowing people to be themselves and come alive on stage, without the fear of not being accepted,” Lois Blonder, benefactor of the program in memory of her husband, Jerry Blonder. “[And] ‘Grease’ definitely is ‘the one that I want’ to showcase the 20th season.

“It gives me such joy to see how far this theater has come and to witness all of the lives that have been deeply touched by it,” she continued. “From the dedicated actors that pour their hearts into each production to the inspired audiences who can’t help but respond with standing ovations, all are overcome with the enormous impact of these performances.”

This year’s 20th-anniversary celebrations are being co-chaired by Silverman, Laura Dinerman and Faye Siegel.

“Habima makes people want to look at their own lives and remember what is truly important – community and supporting one another regardless of differences,” Silverman said. “And the great music from ‘Grease’ is just the way to celebrate!”

 

Editor’s note: All productions will be held at the MJCCA’s Morris & Rae Frank Theater, part of the Zaban Park facilities on Tilly Mill Rd. Visit atlantajcc.org for a full list of showtimes and ticket purchase options.