DURHAM — In the story, Peter Pan can fly.
In real life, children with special needs sometimes need help with even the simplest tasks.
On Friday night, Legacy Repertory Company, with students from across the Triangle, will give a free public performance of the ballet “Peter Pan” for people with special needs of all ages, their families and friends.
It’s an opportunity few might otherwise get, says parent Alyssa Rodriguez-Finch, who has a daughter with high-functioning autism.
“Can you imagine 600 people articulating because they’re affected by what they see?” she said, during a break in rehearsals last weekend. “It’s a good thing, but it would be very distracting.”
The company, part of Legacy Studios for the Performing Arts on North Duke Street, will perform two shows for general audiences Saturday at the Carolina Theatre, the day after the special-needs show, also at the historic theater.
The 55 cast members, including adults, have been rehearsing since late January.
The idea for the special-needs show, which they’ve done before, came from another company that used to invite people with disabilities to their rehearsals.
“I thought this was a really good idea,” said artistic director Boleyn Willis-Zeger. “We’re trying to get in people who don’t (normally) have access to the arts.”
Rodriguez-Finch said she saw early how the arts affected her daughter Abigail, now 10 and playing soccer.
“Music and movement were really some of the things that soothed her when she was younger,” she explained. “I took her to some performances, and she was just mesmerized.”
But it’s hard to predict. Abigail also liked watching hockey on TV, but when her dad took her to a game, the excitement overwhelmed her.
“Oh, my gosh,” Rodriguez-Finch recalled. “It was horrible.”
For that reason, parents of special-needs children may hesitate about an evening out. “You just never know exactly how it’s going to go,” Finch said. “There’s a 50/50 chance you won’t make it through the show. Shelling out money for a show is very, very difficult.” The free show takes that worry away.
The first year, Rodriguez-Finch sent invitations to service providers. This year she emailed 277 invitations, including to rehab centers and nursing homes. As of last week, Friday’s performance was almost filled.
“People are just so excited,” she said. “To see something like this is a very special thing.”