SPRINGFIELD – Veteran actor, writer and broadcaster Patrick Lavery, who played the enchanted teacup Chip in Disney’s Broadway production of “Beauty and the Beast” from 1994 to 1996, this week visited the cast of a local production of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” as they rehearsed for their June 28-30 production.
CAU Community Players is a cast of 80 that comprises people with disabilities who are members of Community Access Unlimited (CAU) and actors from throughout the Union County community and beyond, including students and members of other community groups. The troupe debuted last year with “Suessical Jr.”
Lavery shared stories from his time on stage, which also included a role in “Ragtime,” in film and as a writer and producer of his own musical, “Life is a Musical.”
“When I went out on the stage for the first time I was seven years old and was wondering should I do this,” Lavery told the cast. “As soon as I went out on stage I knew I’d done the right thing.”
Lavery shared how his time acting helped him find the right path in life and a career. After attending the Theater Program at The College of New Jersey as a junior in high school Lavery expanded his focus in college to also include journalism and broadcasting. Today he is the midday news anchor at WGHT in Pompton Lakes.
“You can’t let anyone else tell you what’s best for you,” he told the cast. “You have to decide for yourself.”
Much of Lavery’s message was similar to the themes that run throughout the CAU mission of empowering people with disabilities to take control of their lives, make their own decisions and reach their fullest potential, including living independently within the community, according to Mercedes Witowsky, associate executive director at the agency.
“When many of our members come to us they may be leaving their family’s care for the first time, be leaving a developmental center or simply not yet fully understand that they are the ones in control of their lives,” Witowsky said. “Our mission is to provide the programs and support that allows them to take that control and live independently within the community.
“That’s one of the ideas behind the CAU Community Players, to enable our members with disabilities and people from the community to work together to produce something wonderful. Patrick didn’t come here today to speak to people with disabilities and people without disabilities. He came to speak to actors.”
Toward that end Lavery gave the cast important advice about being nervous and afraid to make mistakes.
“People ask me what happens when you mess up,” he said. “I tell them you all have an audience filled with people who care about you. Everyone wants to see you do a good job. If you think about that, it’s going to happen.”
“Beauty and the Beast Jr.” will be held at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield Friday, June 28, Saturday, June 29, and Sunday, June 30. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. Pre-sale ticket prices are $10 for adults and $8 for students, children and seniors and are available online at www.caucommunityplayers.com. Tickets at the door the day of the performance will be available for $10 each.
All proceeds go toward supporting the programs and services of Community Access Unlimited, which supports people with disabilities and at-risk youth to help them live independent and fulfilled lives within the community. Programs include housing, vocation and life skills training and advocacy, among others.
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