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Below is an article from the Iowa City Press Citizen, Dec. 15, 2011 , “‘A different kind of holiday show’ hits the stage” [source]

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City High and University of Iowa students, along with community members, will come together on stage this weekend for a performances of “Vaudeville Dreams.”

This original play is present by Combined Efforts Theatre, a nonprofit organization that gives performers with and without special needs an outlet to perform original plays.

Jason Grubbe, the show’s director, describes the show as a drama with comedic elements and music.

“It’s a different kind of holiday show. It has comedy, pathos, compelling characters and a compelling storyline,” Grubbe said.

The story follows a boy who used his imagination to create a world of Vaudeville performances in order to try to make sense of his world.

“Without a spoiler, it is a story about the judgments that we make on what we consider to be reality and how we make sense of that through our dreams and imaginations,” said Janet Schlapkohl, the writer of the show and founder of Combined Efforts.

Schlapkohl, a former special education teacher at City High and MFA playwright candidate at UI, opened Combined Efforts Theatre in 2002 to give people with special needs an outlet to perform.

“I found the overwhelming talent of my students, who could sing and dance and wanted to be on stage, to be inspiring,” she said.

Schlapkohl says “Vaudeville Dreams” can evoke different emotions in different people.

“It can be humorous, surprising, not maybe what people expected,” Schlapkohl said. “They might find some aspects of the play sad or poignant.”

The performance opened at UI last weekend and will gain additional actors from City High this weekend. The basic storyline is the same, but the City High performance includes additional vaudevillian aspects. Schlapkohl said last weekend’s show was a success.

“Audience response was the highlight for me because it was satisfying not just to me, but to the actors as well,” Schlapkohl said.

City High students are excited to have an opportunity to participate in this production.

“It’s a great opportunity for students in special education. It gives them an opportunity to work in a theater,” said Sophie Neems, a City High senior. “It’s also great for me because I get to work with a diverse group of people.”

Grubbe, a professional actor, has been working on shows with Combined Efforts for the last few years. His son, who has special needs, introduced him to the organization.

“It’s rewarding to help them in a situation that allows their talents to come out,” Grubbe said.

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