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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The Loft screens local Disability Awareness Month documentary

    (Courtesy Invisible Theatre) Such Good Friends features members of the Invisible Theatres Tucson Pastime Players.

    (Courtesy Invisible Theatre) “Such Good Friends” features members of the Invisible Theatre’s Tucson Pastime Players.

    October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the theme this year has been “inclusion works.” Tucson’s Invisible Theatre prides itself on vision, and for over thirty years it has reflected this theme in its work with the disabled young people in the Tucson community.

    Susan Claassen, Invisible Theatre’s managing artistic director, and Gail Fitzhugh, associate director, created a workshop called Pastime Players in 1984. Claassen describes it as a model program for special needs art education, and as one of the most important projects at IT.

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    “Pastime Players is an integrated arts program for special needs students in local public schools,” Claassen said. “I believe art should be a regular part of the day, and that we should be focusing on students’ great ability instead of any disability.”

    Twice a week at Doolen Middle School, these students gather for instruction in drama, music and dance, led by Claassen and experienced UA alumni. The education culminates in a production titled “The Me Inside of Me,” which focuses on Pastime Player’s call to everyone to discover their unexpected gifts.

    A few years ago, documentary filmmaker Cyndee Wing decided she wanted to share this spirit of diversity and acceptance. This vision led to the production of the award-winning documentary “Such Good Friends.”

    “It’s more than a documentary about this project,” Claassen said. “It’s about a connection between Invisible Theatre joining with students, and the one common ground being the arts, and how that art is the great equalizer.”

    The film follows members of Pastime Players, showing their different socio-economic backgrounds and home lives. They may come from a wide range of inner and outer situations, but these students and their families share common concerns and fears.

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    According to Claassen, the documentary reveals a resilience and refusal to accept boundaries. She said what these students achieve has been the most gratifying work of all her years at IT.

    “My favorite part of the documentary is to be able to look back and see how many of the students exceeded expectations,” Claassen said. “To be able to keep track and see how they’ve grown into wonderful, absolutely contributing members of society.”

    The film features a theme song of the same name by Amanda McBroom, composer of Golden Globe Best Original Song “The Rose.”

    “Such Good Friends” has been shown at the Arizona International Film Festival and the Black Hills Film Festival. Claassen said it has been well-received so far and looks forward to sharing it at The Loft Cinema.

    “Such Good Friends” screens Saturday at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. Doors open at 10:45 a.m. for the one show at 11 a.m. and though it is free, it is expected to be a popular event.

    Far beyond this month’s disability awareness, “Such Good Friends” aims to bring solidarity with Claassen’s dedication to giving everyone the same chances.

    “When you believe in something, and you believe in somebody—when you hold the bar high, people tend to exceed it.”

    Follow Gretchen Kaylor on Twitter

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