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Musicals written and directed by Allen Etter. Performing for the Jesters group is Molly, Elizabeth and Matt at the University of St. Francis.
Musicals written and directed by Allen Etter. Performing for the Jesters group is Molly, Elizabeth and Matt at the University of St. Francis.
The Jesters group from the University of Saint Francis performed their annual musical on Sunday, March 18 at the Scottish Rite in downtown Fort Wayne. Children and young adults with special needs make up the art and theater based Jesters. Currently the group is comprised of 40 individuals between the ages of 8 and 35 years. The Jesters is a 28-year program that was originally formed to offer those with special needs the opportunity to be involved in theater. Recently art has been added to the curriculum for the Jesters.

Though currently the Jesters only have one musical per year for the public, much learning, time, and work is put into the production throughout the year. The Jesters’ season begins in September and ends with their performance every March. The group meets every Saturday for four hours. The first two hours are spent with theater work and the second two hours are spent focusing on art including ceramics, pottery, and everyone’s favorite, painting.

The near seven months of planning and rehearsing pays off when the Jesters perform their annual show. This year’s show was called “Film Noir”. Past shows have included topics such as pirates, the circus, and even a western theme. Next year’s show will be a sequel to a previous show, which will be titled, “Pirates of Charity Island: Island Resort.”

Each show is written and directed by Allen Etter who is an art instructor at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne. Etter also writes most of the music for the shows, along with pianist Bill Brune. Etter has been leading the Jesters for five years and says that the group feels and operates much like a family. During the process of preparing for a show, changes are made almost daily to best fit the actors and their parts. Though the Jesters are comprised of individuals with special needs, Etter stresses the importance disregarding their disabilities, and instead focusing on their many abilities.

The future for the Jesters looks bright with The University of Saint Francis recently obtaining the Abundant Life Tabernacle building across from the campus. The new building will serve as the University’s theater and should be in full use by next year. This will not only allow the Jesters to have more room for rehearsals, but will also allow them to have numerous performances at the end of their season. The Jesters is a not for profit organization and relies heavily on community support and donations. Donations allow for the making of sets, supplies, and uniforms. Volunteer support is also necessary and much appreciated. With this season coming to an end, we wish the Jesters the very best of luck in their new theater location and in the seasons to come!

The Waynedale News Staff
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