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Three days later (and an even three weeks before opening), the Alchemia actors have hit their stride. The nerves and worries so evident a few days before have given way to a joyful exuberance that's thoroughly infectious.
"OK, from the top of the show!" Jahren grins, clapping her hands for emphasis. "You guys totally rock! You ready? Let's do this! And don't forget to smile!"
Fenex plays the opening music, as the cast line up in a row around the stage. Michael and Laura step forward.
"This is the story of living with different abilities." Laura says, confidently.
"And how it affects our lives," adds Michael. "To tell the story, I'd like to introduce the amazing members of the Alchemia Theater for Life company. Nonie! Matthew! Shane! Ahleli! Melissa! Alicia! Melanie! Carolyn! Connie! Danny! Jamal! Michael! Kyle! Laura! Tim! Dante! Joy! Diana! Julie! Kylie! Vincent!"
"Whoo-hoo!" everyone cheers.
"We want to talk about disability," states Matthew, not forgetting to smile. One by one, the cast steps forward.
"I have Down syndrome!" "I have VCFS!" "I have a learning disability!" "I have Asperger's syndrome!" "I have Tourette's!"
"I'm a chrysanthemum!" shouts Julie.
"We," adds Kyle, "are not our labels!"
Raising their arms, as Jahren gives them all a huge thumbs-up, the cast begins to sing.
"Life's an opportunity! Rife with possibility! When 'you' and 'I' turn into 'we,' we'll see the world we want to see! And I will be the me . . . I've always wanted to be!"