Daily Point of Light # 1635 May 10, 2000

Established in 1985, the Brite Lites Theater Co. (Brite Lites) is a musical dance troupe and training program composed of 20 adults with developmental disabilities at New Horizons. Over 35 clients have been part of the troupe since the inception of the company. Members are committed to two hours of stringent rehearsal each week and take part in over 20 performances in companies, schools, nonprofit organizations and associations each year.

Like many individuals in this population all members have mental retardation. Through the Theatre Arts training program they have learned musical choreography and dances to perform as professionals. Their repertoire includes Rock-n-Roll, Country Western, Broadway Musicals, Holiday Musical Shows.

There are three primary objectives of Brite Lites. First, it serves as an outlet for artistic and creative expression for individuals with developmental disabilities. Second, it is an educational and therapeutic program for clients to learn skills essential for community integration. The scope of learning through the rehearsals and performances goes beyond music, dance steps and drama. It encompasses teamwork, self-confidence, self-presentation and perseverance. Third, Brite Lites shows are not only entertaining but are also educational. They are meant to help the general public gain greater appreciation of the capabilities of people with development disabilities and help break down fears and prejudice against individuals in this population.

Brite Lites troupe members are very well adjusted in their work, home, and recreational environmental. They are assertive, motivated, confident and helpful. Brite Lites’ acceptance by the public has been most encouraging. In the last decade, the troupe has made more than 200 performances in companies, schools, associations, hospitals, convalescent centers, clubs and community special events. Members of the troupe have appeared on TV and films. Since 1997, the troupe has annually helped the L.A. City Fire Department kick off their holiday toy drive, an event covered by local TV news.

Responses from the general public to each Brite Lites show have always been positive. The impression left on children has been particularly gratifying, reports one staff member. In more than one occasion, elementary school students have come up to the Director of Brite Liters and asked if they could come volunteer to assist individuals with development disabilities.

The program is not funded by any government sources and is subsidized by the agency at a cost of $8,000 per year. The director and founder of the program, a registered recreation therapist, devotes 10 hours per week to the program. The involvement of more than 20 volunteers have made it possible for the troupe to make 15 to 20 performances per year.