Angles on Stage, San Jose, CA–Forty kids hovered backstage for their cue to enter onstage for their opening number. As the houselights dimmed and spotlights shone, the music cued up…kids dressed in jungle costumes (from people, to animals, to coconut trees) flooded the stage singing and dancing to the theme song of Walt Disney’s Jungle book with energy and enthusiasm rivaling any Broadway production.
Angels on Stage once again shone brilliantly for its second season. They also challenged the status quo definition of “talent” by demonstrating that the stage is a world where life and talent are limited only by one’s imagination.
Angles on Stage is a very unique theater troupe offering a place where children with special developing needs, such as Down’s Syndrome, can come and find a place to display their acting and singing abilities to sold out performances two times a year. The stage becomes an exciting place where the audience is drawn into, not only the story line, but the energy and enthusiasm each child offers.
DeAnna Pursai founded Angels on Stage (Named for her younger sister Angel, who has Down’s syndrome and is the original “Angel”). Pursai was Angel’s buddy coach in a similar theater troupe when they were younger. Pursai told me that “Angel is my hero and best friend, and I always knew I wanted to start a similar theater troupe after I experienced the joy growing up with my sister.”
Angel’s on Stage first season was fall 2008 with 40 “Angels” and 35 “typically-developing student buddy-coaches”. They practiced for six months until March 2009 premiering with “The Wizard of Oz” –preformed to sold-out audiences each night. Since last year, they have doubled to 80 Angels, 50 buddy coaches, and a host of volunteers. “Every Saturday morning we have about 150 volunteers coming together to set the Angels up for optimal success in illuminating their incredible abilities”, according to Pursai.
The Angel’s abilities are drawn out by the steadfast guidance of Pursai who grew up to become a special education teacher. She now runs Angels on Stage as well as a second nonprofit–The College of Adaptive Arts–offering visual and performing arts classes to adults with differing abilities.
Pursai’s mission is “to provide a professional musical theater experience to children, ages 5-22, with differing abilities of any type and degree.” She hopes to contribute to a national infrastructure that offers musical theater opportunities nationwide “on par with the athletic opportunities available through Special Olympics“. The organizational vision is to set the “Angels” and each other up to achieve optimal success. If success is defined by the sold out performances, Pursai is well on her way to realizing her goal.
Interview with DeAnna Pursai March 25, 2010, San Jose, California Angels on Stage dress rehearsal.