Grease is the word, is the word that you heard/It’s got groove, it’s got meaning
Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion/Grease is the way we are feeling. – Barry Gibb
The familiar music and lyrics to the song “Grease” fill the Catherine Hickman Theater. The guys in their leather jackets and greased-back hair start singing on one half of the stage. The girls in their Pink Ladies jackets begin singing from the other side. The voices mingle as the musical “Grease,” joyously performed by the Synchrony Arts Productions cast, takes the audience back to Rydell High School and the 1950s.
Synchrony Arts Productions is not just an ordinary theater troupe. The not-for-profit organization inspires and empowers intellectually and developmentally disabled adults by teaching theater skills such as music, song lyrics, script lines and choreography, all in a safe, fun and welcoming environment. Participants come from both family homes and group or independent living homes across Pinellas County.
After months of rehearsals, the exceptional cast performed “Grease” at the Catherine Hickman Theater the weekend of September 16 through 18, a fitting venue for Synchrony Arts Productions , born from its beginnings at Project Free in Gulfport.
“Three years ago we were approached by Project Free to put on a musical for this population,” says Rose Stauffer, secretary of Synchrony Arts, “and that’s how we got started.”
In an effort to have a wider reach, Synchrony Arts Productions was formed.
“By forming the organization, we are able to touch more lives and take productions into other areas,” says George Algozzina, Synchrony Arts executive director and acting treasurer. “We are not only teaching theater skills, we are teaching skills that contribute to social, physical, emotional, vocational and intellectual development. It’s very rewarding to be a part of this.”
The entire board of Synchrony Arts, which includes chair Leslie Kille and vice-chair Adrienne Shoffer, all have musical and theater backgrounds and play multiple roles in preparing for the productions. Depending on the complexity of the music and script, they rehearse with the cast for three months, once weekly for the first month and then twice weekly as it gets closer to show time. The team also serves as cheerleaders and coaches, encouraging the cast to project the lyrics, adjusting costumes and leading the actors in deep breathing exercises before practices and performances.
“When they participate in our theater troupe, it expands their horizons,” says Stauffer. “We are able to give them something more than routine.”
During the dress rehearsal on Thursday evening prior to opening night, it was obvious that the cast clearly enjoys their roles and the camaraderie.
“I like to be playing someone else,” says Steven Matthew Brodnick, who plays the lead role of Danny Zuko, before joining the rest of the cast on stage.
As a not-for-profit, the organization accepts donations from other organizations, businesses and individuals to help with costs. The only monies received otherwise are from ticket sales. As the organization provides the entire musical theater experience to participants at no cost, expenses are varied and costly and include music, props, costumes, personnel and – the largest expense — theater venues.
Good Samaritan Church, located at 6085 Park Blvd. N. in Pinellas Park, hosts the Grease Dinner Theater Show on October 1 at 6:00 p.m., which will include a full course meal as well as the show for the price of a ticket donation.
“We were blessed this year to partner with Good Samaritan Church. They not only donated rehearsal facilities but provided support and volunteers from their staff. Donations are so graciously appreciated,” says Algozzina. “We also appreciate assistance with costuming, prop construction and acquisition and rehearsal support.”
To volunteer or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 727-259-8148. Find them on Facebook at Synchrony Arts Productions.