By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Center Stage Theatre camp allows individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities to be recognized for just being themselves.
Annie Wasinger, 19, a sophomore at Wichita State University and Hays native, is in her fourth year of running the camp.
"For me camp is the one place where you can show up and people perceive you in the exact way you want them to," Wasinger said. "That is so rare for me. ...
"Especially for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, they're never on that page where other people's perceptions of them is on their terms. People are always going into situations with them with preconceived notions or stereotypes or they want to interact with them so they can feel better about themselves."
Wasinger said there is an energy in the room during camp.
"It is as if you walk in and a weight is lifted off of you and you can be anyone you want to be, you can say anything, you can do anything. You are going to be fully accepted," she said.
"We all ride this wave of mutual care and attention to each other. I think being a part of that as a community member and coming to see [the performance] is important."
The camp, which has been ongoing since Monday, will culminate with a free public performance at 6:30 tonight at Celebration Community Church.
The camp participants will perform a one-act play, written by Wasinger, titled "Sunburst Talent Search."
Several campers will impersonate their favorite musical artists as part of the performance.
The performance will also include shorter skits, including one loosely based on "The Three Little Pigs."
This year the program has 35 campers, more than in any previous year. Since Wasinger founded the camp, the program participation has more than doubled.
"Everyone who is participating in camp — they really are my best friends," Wasinger said.
This year instead of creating characters for the script, Wasinger tailor wrote many of the roles for campers she knew would be returning this year.
"It's been really nice to just build on knowing so and so really likes to talk about this. They would be a great newscaster or finding those places where people are at their most natural and they're happiest," Wasinger said.
Camp sponsors include Gone Logo, Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas, Kiwanis of Hays, Celebration Community Church and Wendy Stein.