MILWAUKEE — A first-of-its-kind Milwaukee theater company is set to premiere its first-ever live performance on Sunday. Pink Umbrella’s production of Shine is staged entirely by people who identify with a disability. They, and the company, are eager to show what they can do.
Katie Cummings founded Pink Umbrella in 2018 after running a program at Milwaukee’s First Stage for students with autism.
“We very quickly took people with other developmental differences,” Cummings explained. “Those kids grew up, and they grew up as theater kids. As adults, they didn’t have a place here in Milwaukee that was built for them.”
Shine features six paid performers. It’s an original work, about varying attitudes in emerging from a deadly pandemic. 18-year-old Jack Allen plays the lead character, Sunshine.
“He is a little bit more energetic. A little bit more happy and joyful, and I think Sunshine is a really beautiful way to have my character,” said Allen, who's been performing for years.
The company is also working on adding off-stage positions for people with intellectual, physical, or emotional disabilities.
Chris Reibel is on the autism spectrum and a member of Pink Umbrella’s Board of Directors.
“Usually I have been helping out so far,” Reibel said as he carried notes and observed rehearsal. “Usually by arranging monthly meetings.”
Cummings revealed it’s more than that. Reibel also coordinates public outreach and communications plans and offers important perspectives in Board meetings.
The company is a nonprofit, supported by corporate giving, individual donations, foundations, and grants, including contributions from United Performing Arts Fund and United Way.
Shine is an outdoor production, premiering at Lakeshore State Park on Sunday, July 25. It is free to attend. For information, click here.