Big City Night ATLANTIS

On Saturday, February 6th, Members of the ABLE Ensemble were honored to be a part of the entertainment for Aspire's annual Gala, Big City Night: Atlantis at The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel downtown. Aspire has played a huge role in the lives of many of our actors, so we were delighted to support them at this special event.



Aspire was founded in 1960 and is recognized throughout Illinois as a leader in providing bold, pioneering and uncompromising services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, their families and the Chicagoland community. They provide occupational therapy, inclusion and education consults, and family enrichment for all ages. They also take great strides in helping individuals with disabilities to build life skills and work towards independent living, and to help them find meaningful employment through programs like Aspire Coffeeworks. To learn more about Aspire and the all of the ways they impact our community, click here to visit their website.


Katie and Ben set up the "waves" for the Shipwreck.

Eva, Somer, and Katie have some fun with costumes and props after rehearsal

10 of our regular actors and 6 members of our teaching staff met at the Menomonee Club on Friday night to rehearse for this one-time only event. We started just like our normal classes with dance party, warm ups, check in, and a great focus game (Elephant/Alligator).

After that, it was time to get into characters and build our performance piece for Saturday. The theme for the Gala was Atlantis, so we played Here to There focusing on different characters and creatures one would find under the sea. We went here to there as mermaids, fish, sharks, dolphins, crabs, Poseidon, Kings and Queens, and more! We also got to try on costumes. We dressed as Gods and Goddesses in togas, but also had a beautiful mermaid, and some other watery beings.

From there we started practicing the elements of the actual show. For this special performance, we did a “Greatest Hits” compilation of some moments from a few of our past shows:

  • The Shipwreck from The Tempest
  • The Breakfast Club Speech and “Don’t You Forget About Me” from What You Will
  • Actors "I Am..." Monologues from What You Will
  • "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in ASL from The Wizard of Oz

We spent the rest of class time running all of these pieces, and learning our blocking, and spent extra time reviewing our sign language for "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". After check-out and I Take From the Heavens, it was time to get some beauty sleep!


Lawrence and Sean steam costumes before the actors arrive

Our teaching staff arrived at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel around 4pm to meet with the Event Staff from Aspire, check out the space, and get set up. We had our very own green room on the second floor and made good use of it with all of our costumes and accessories.

As our actors arrived, we got them all in to costume, Fletcher’s mom, Karen, and Hannah’s mom and Aunt, Patrice and Terry, stayed to help us get everyone looking their best. We also had fun temporary tattoos and blue and silver face paint to complete the looks. Once in costume, we did a quick warm up and check in before going down to the ballroom. The stage was a little smaller than our rehearsal studio so we had to adjust our blocking for The Tempest and practice working with the microphone.

Jack, Quincy, Rachel, and Emily greeted guests during the cocktail hour.

During the cocktail hour, we mixed and mingled with guests. Quincy stayed close to the door and shouted “Welcome to Atlantis” as new people arrived. Ben complimented all of the ladies on their “beautiful hair” and “twirly dresses.” Rachel and Colleen invited people to dance with their cocktails. Marissa showed off her natural entrepreneurial spirit and worked the crowd getting donations for Aspire- she raised over $2000 in less than an hour!!!

Actors hang out in the greenroom between cocktail hour and their big performance!

Once the ballroom was opened for dinner service, we returned to our greenroom for snacks, water, and a short rehearsal. We ran through our performance, and reviewed our sign language to make sure everything was show-ready, and also had time for some group photos. The whole hotel was decorated so beautifully with blue and green lighting, projections, and intricate balloon sculptures,  we had fun just hanging out in the lobby, but eventually we got the signal that it was showtime!

This was the largest crowd ABLE has ever performed for with close to 500 people sitting in tables in a packed ballroom. Katie did a short introduction to share more about who we are and what we do, and then the actors took over! Our performance was right in the middle of the dinner hour, and it was really amazing to watch all of the guests stop eating, stop talking and give their full attention to what was happening onstage. The monologues, as always,  were a big hit and really helped show the individual talents, voices, and personalities of our cast. After “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, we were met with a standing ovation from the crowd!

A few of our actors went straight home after the performance, but many changed into their party clothes and stayed to dance the night away at the Gala after-party, Poseidon’s Ball. You can’t take this group away from the dance floor! Even our teaching staff joined in the fun.

Many thanks Aspire’s Director of Special Events Robby Bardwell for inviting us to be a part of this fantastic evening, volunteer coordinator Debbie Weston for helping us with everything big and small during the day, and everyone else from the Aspire team for making us feel so welcome! We had so much fun celebrating with and supporting this wonderful organization.  We’re looking forward to partnering with Aspire for more events in the future – in fact, their director of community initiatives, Robin Schroud will be joining us for the first 2 classes and consulting our teaching artists on how we can make our rehearsals even more productive and inclusive. We are so grateful to be a part of such a fabulous community dedicated to helping EVERYONE live their best lives.