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'Free to Be You and Me' for special needs on Long Island

A new program for teens of varying degrees

A new program for teens of varying degrees of special needs and spectrum disorders is culminating in their modified performance of the play "Free to Be You and Me" on Sunday, March 30, at the Suffolk Y JCC in Commack. From left: Emily Wieber, 14, of Commack, Jonathan Smith, 13, of Hauppauge, Corey Quinto, 17, Dix Hills, and Sarah Owen, 19, of East Northport . Credit: Lisa Polese

A new program for teens of varying degrees of special needs and spectrum disorders is culminating in their modified performance of the play "Free to Be You and Me" on Sunday in Commack.

The five kids in the "In The Spotlight" program have been rehearsing for 12 weeks, and the performance is low-pressure, says Rochele Seskin, co-artistic director of the Theater Arts Center of the Suffolk Y JCC, which piloted the program along with the JCC's Butler Special Needs Center and a grant from Hills vs. Autism.

"If they need their script, they can hold their script. If they need help, I give them help," Seskin says. The kids will be in costume. The one-hour performance includes scenes from "Free to Be You and Me" as well as the actors demonstrating the physical and vocal warm-ups and training exercises they do in class, such as tongue twisters and facial and body stretches. "An audience would be wonderful," Seskin says.

Even more wonderful would be more kids learning of and joining the program, Seskin says. A new, abbreviated session begins April 27 and runs for six sessions. The cost is $120 for each teen.

"Free to Be You and Me" will take place on Sunday from 11 a.m. to noon at the Suffolk Y JCC (74 Hauppauge Rd., Commack). The event is free. For more information, call 631-462-9800 or visit suffolkyjcc.org.

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