What is Special Gifts Theatre
Special Gifts Theatre (SGT) is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 2000 to provide individuals who possess a wide array of special needs (physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and learning) the opportunity to experience the joy and enrichment that theatre arts can bring. The program, though recreational in scope, is educationally and therapeutically based. All of the programs are designed to use the stage as a platform to develop social skills, speech/ language skills, and self-confidence. The theatre arts provides an excellent opportunity for enhancing an individual’s self-esteem and self-confidence; encouraging problem-solving abilities; strengthening listening, focusing, and attention skills; improving communication and fostering cooperation.
Peer mentors are an important component of the programming that facilitate acceptance, understanding, and growth. This unique creative drama experience enables personal growth while breaking down stereotypes related to disabilities within the community at large.
How it all began
Susan (Susie) B. Field, founded Special Gifts Theatre in 2000, after practicing occupational therapy in the Chicago area for over 25 years. Susie graduated from the University of Illinois with a BS in Occupational Therapy in 1977 and went on to develop an Early Rehabilitation Program and a General Medicine and Surgery Program for Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, IL. Having three children who all grew and thrived in the performing arts, combined with her experience in Occupational Therapy, led Susie to envision the opportunity for children and teens that possess a wide array of special needs to experience the joy and enrichment of the theatre. Special Gifts Theatre was founded as an educational and therapeutic theatre program that gave individuals with special needs the opportunity to shine on stage!
Read how Susie’s dream transpired at the dinner table one evening by viewing an excerpt taken from chapter seven of Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We’re Going to Grandma’s.
Today, we have served over 2,300 individuals with and without special needs and have presented over 60 performances to audiences of nearly 30,000 people. Currently, SGT offers four programs that include Creativity in Motion, Musical Theatre, Creating Outside the Lines and Performance Troupe. In addition, a unique Peer Mentor/Buddy Program is provided that consists of typically developing peers who work one-on-one with an SGT student on choreography, classroom activities, stage work and more!
The individuals that participate in Special Gifts Theatre have a variety of special needs (physical, cognitive, learning and social). SGT focuses on the individual’s abilities, not disabilities! The audiences who see our final production in the theatre are amazed at what everyone accomplishes on stage, considering the limitations certain diagnoses would imply. We adapt situations to present each actor on stage showcasing his/her strengths.
SGT continues to invest in the future. By offering additional programs, identifying new locations, and growing trained and experienced staff, SGT will continue to reach out to many communities and children with special needs. If your school or organization has a need for SGT to create a program or consult on ways to incorporate children with special needs in a current program, please contact our office at 847.564.7704 or email us.