Performer: Despite special needs, West Boylston’s daughter shines on stage – The Banner – telegram.com

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WEST BOYLSTON – Grace Quimby is a resident of West Boylston and a fifth grade student at Major Edwards Elementary School. Like many of her peers, she enjoys singing, dancing and performing in front of an audience. According to her mother, Julie Holston, Grace “is a bit of a ham”.

What sets her apart from many of those same peers is the fact that Grace has special needs, including Down syndrome. But that hasn’t stopped her from successfully appearing in several community theater productions and she continues to perform, sing and dance despite her challenges.

“It probably took Grace a little longer to learn some things, but she’s still going on,” her mother said.

“The Open Door Theater in Acton has been providing a venue for anyone to appear in productions for 30 years. Grace is now working on her third production there, ‘Shrek, The Musical’, and she loves it,” says Holston.

The philosophy of the Open Door Theater is: “The Open Door Theater of Acton is a non-profit, family-oriented, accessible community theater company that creates theater-based learning experiences for adults, children and adults. children and people with special needs since its inception in 1980. The Open Door philosophy is that when you provide a positive theatrical experience, with this mix of people, they learn a lot about themselves and how to get along. .. “

According to the theater’s website, productions include up to 100 artists and as many, if not more, behind-the-scenes workers, all working towards a common goal.

Grace benefited from the non-judgmental inclusion there, according to her mother.

“The theater has given her a creative outlet, a social environment. It’s a mix of things that really works for her.

“We had challenges, like waiting behind the stage with a lot of people, waiting to keep going, but it’s the persistence that makes it work,” said Holston.

And perseverance led Grace to become an accomplished pianist. She has been studying piano for five years at Pakachoag Music School.

“The piano was great for her. Again, it was a challenge, but she stuck with it and she’s doing well,” said Holston, as Grace’s fingers moved nimbly over the keys of her. electronic keyboard, playing a song she had confided in. memory.

But attending the theater is what Grace really enjoys.

Grace’s performance repertoire includes “Annie” and “Working”.

Grace said she enjoyed everything she does in the theater, but she has her favorite aspects.

“I love to dance, sing and be on stage,” she said.

Grace’s mother credits the Open Door Theater with much of her daughter’s success, but believes anything Grace’s family has done to help is critical to her daughter’s accomplishments.

Both parents are music lovers and Grace’s brother led the way.

“When my eldest daughter Claire, who is 21, was younger, she performed with the Sterling Community Theater. I performed in the theater alone and with Claire, and we always had fun,” said Holston.

Early in Grace’s life, however, due to the challenges she faced, “I never thought I could do theater with her. The Open Door Theater changed all that, and we’re really happy for that.” , Holston mentioned.

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