In 1996, the musical Grease was produced with the Greece Athena High School as a fundraiser for the School of the Holy Childhood, as they were in desperate need of a new gymnasium floor. Given the fundraiser was for Holy Childhood, we had approximately 25 students attend each performance. One young man, however, was standing and dancing as he sung the closing song with energy and a look of great happiness that words cannot describe. During the close of the performance as this young man was leaving with his mother, she was told what a beautiful voice her son had and that he should also be on stage with his incredible voice. As she left she swelled up with tears and said “…unfortunately, no one wants my son on stage…”
As this issue was researched, it became evident that she was in fact correct, musical programs for individuals with special needs are limited, selective, and modest at best and no real professional production of a musical was available for them to participate in. During the period of time until the year 2000, further research conducted with visits, calls and with the Internet made it very clear this was going to be a challenge. No one had actually undertaken a project of this nature within the US and that we could look to no one for help, advice or their experience.
In 2002, the first effort was launched that would offer individuals with developmental and/or physical disabilities the opportunity to be in a musical production. With the rallying cry of “…there is no such word as can’t…” we moved forward to produce Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with great success only to perform it again a few months later! Annually, over the next six years, the program continued to provide a great number of individuals involved, a place to demonstrate their talents. We have seen confidence soar, passions emerge and anticipation grow for our next show. In addition, our productions foster the development of unique and lasting friendships between all participants on and off the stage. This program has resulted in a number of sold out shows, allowing the community to embrace the gifts and talents of these individuals as they demonstrate what they can achieve with the support made available by our organization.
In 2007, Artists Unlimited, Inc. was formed, incorporated, applied for and obtained 501(c)(3) status. Although the unofficial organization had already produced the first five shows, the newly formed corporation, with its Board of Directors, took over the production and day by day responsibilities of the organization. The newly formed organization went on to produce shows like The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Disney’s High School Musical, and Willie Wonka, and all of these shows have been extremely successful with sold-out performances! In 2011, we produced our 10th musical production Annie, and we also celebrated our 10th year providing the opportunity for our extraordinary cast to showcase their remarkable talents! This November, 2016 will be our 15th year with our production of Beauty and the Beast. We plan to continue to move forward into the future with new shows and even some new programs. Please continue to visit our site for continual updates of our upcoming performances and events!