When Eastchester Middle School students arrived at The Prospector Theater in Ridgefield Connecticut, employees greeted them with cheers.
What sets the theater apart from others is that 70% of its employees are adults with varying levels of physical or intellectual disabilities.
“The mission of the theater is to provide meaningful employment to people with disabilities and to decrease the stigma of disability,” said EMS Guidance Counselor Kristen Spillane who attended the trip on May 7. “This helps the general public see the employees for what they ARE.”
The employees are affectionately referred to as “prospects” and they partake in every job at the theater from marketing, to landscaping, to selling popcorn and serving as ushers.
During their tour, students observed a chandelier created from items like a film reel, a bicycle tire, and an old red wagon. Spillane explained, what seemingly appears to have no purpose forms a home together and makes people happy.
The “Popcorn Taste Testing” station proved to be the favorite stop along the way where students sampled mocha chip, toffee and caramel flavored popcorn – all made by prospects.
Students and chaperones enjoyed a bucket of popcorn as they watched home-made movie previews. A prospect playfully rapped movie etiquette “turn of our phones unless we want to sit alone!” Then it was time for the film called “Sparkle Island” which was written, produced and featured prospects.
After enjoying some pizza and conversation, the tour guides taught the students how to make bows from old movie posters that are used on customers’ gift cards.
Spillane said, “We learned there are new jobs created all of the time for a wide variety of abilities.”https://www.prospectortheater.org/