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Ossining's Theater O Operates With Listening, Learning, 'Wonder'

From a production of Cinderella, left to right: Ella Schnecker, Stella Brail, Jessica Irons, and Nyasha Nyoni.
From a production of Cinderella, left to right: Ella Schnecker, Stella Brail, Jessica Irons, and Nyasha Nyoni. Photo Credit: Submitted

OSSINING, N.Y. -- "Wonder," which Ossining-based Theater O is producing on April 29, is 100 percent kid-driven.

So explains Jessica Irons, the founder of the program who said this show is emblematic of the youngsters enrolled in the theater group. "They really pushed for it despite the fact we had no script and I didn't think we could get the rights to perform it," she said.

"Our whole motto is listen, learn imagine, perform," said Irons, "and so when they brought this idea to me, I knew I had to listen to them."

The Ossining resident said she contacted the author, RJ Palacio, thinking it would never happen and got an email from her right away, telling her to do it.

"We adapted the play; the kids have helped with the script," said Irons, "They are now working on the songs and the scenes. It's been incredibly collaborative."

Irons said she never could have imagined, when she started Theater O last May, that this kind of "magic" could happen. "I knew it could be great -- we have wonderful children in our community, but we have turned into a family," she said.

Theater O -- the "O" stands for Ossining -- attracts kids ages two and up with an interest in theater. Youngsters don't have to want to be actors; they just have to have an aptitude for the theater process, which Irons says helps build self-confidence. (The children in the Wonder performance range from ages seven to 14.)

The group, founded May 8, 2015, has already performed four plays in the flex space it occupies.

"My goal was this would become a theatrical home for the kids and it really has," she says. "The kids here have really risen to the occasion in such a huge way; they are constantly surprising me."

And though she admits she's a little tired after her "crazy year," -- she also serves as the president of the Ossining MATTERS -- she said "I'm a little tired in the best possible way."

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