Once a year, a magical and touching celebration of the human spirit unfolds at numerous theatres across the country, when children in The Penguin Project take to the stage to perform a modified version of a well-known Broadway musical. The Penguin Project of the Quad Cities will present its inaugural production, Annie Jr., March 3-5 in the Kim and Donna Brunner Main Stage Theatre at Augustana College.

In The Penguin Project performances, roles are filled by young artists with developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other neurological disorders. They are joined on stage by a dedicated group of peer mentors—children without disabilities who volunteer to work side-by-side with the artists through four months of rehearsals and a final performance. By providing access to community theatre, The Penguin Project demonstrates that the special challenges of a disability should not handicap a child’s ability to participate in life’s experiences.

Established in 2004, The Penguin Project has evolved into a program with replication sites throughout the United States. The program provides a supportive environment for children with disabilities to explore their creative talents. Participation in the performing arts has therapeutic value by enhancing social interaction, communication skills, self-confidence and self-esteem. The impact of The Penguin Project reaches beyond the stage, creating a social network for children who previously may have had few friends and limited social opportunities.

Public performances of Annie Jr. will be presented on the Brunner Main Stage in the Brunner Theatre Center, March 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. and March 5 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $12, general admission. Tickets can be purchased at the Augustana Ticket Office, by calling 309- 794-7306 or by visiting augustana.edu/tickets.

The Penguin Project of the Quad Cities’ production of Annie Jr. is co-produced by The Center for Living Arts, Rock Island, and the Department of Theatre Arts at Augustana College.


Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.