‘From the Heart’ talent show brings warmth, love, fun

Jun 1, 2018 by Kate Day Sager (kdsager@bradfordera.com), The Bradford Era

A group of performers rehearse the Laurel and Hardy skit for the upcoming staging of the “From the Heart” production at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. The show will be performed at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Bromeley Family Theater on campus.

There are times when the warm glow of love, mixed with fun and talent, can make the world right — if just for 75 minutes or so.

The upcoming “From the Heart” talent show is a perfect example of a moment in time when the community will come together to help a unique group of performers create a special show.

The one-act production, scheduled to be staged at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Bromeley Family Theater at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, is open to the public with general admission set at $5. The fact that the proceeds will benefit a charity of the cast’s choice is very telling of this group of individuals, many of whom have special needs.

Immensely talented pianist Daniel Nordin, who has a visual impairment, sets the mood of the show during his intro by telling the audience the production is a way for all on stage “to give back to our wonderful community.”

The community Nordin refers to includes Pitt-Bradford, which offered the theater to stage the production, as well as other sponsors such as Bradford Little Theatre (BLT), Futures Rehabilitation Center and the Kiwanis Aktion Club. Other groups, such as Evergreen Elm residential services, have ensured staff is available to transport and accompany individuals from their program to rehearsals as well as on show day. Others who will take the stage include third- and fourth-grade students from The Learning Center and the Allegheny Mountain Cloggers.

Key to this whole, wonderful production, however, is Kristin Asinger, director of the show and president of BLT.

While the idea of conducting a show that would primarily feature the talents of folks with special needs was presented to Asinger by a talented young guy named Chris Lathrop, it was Asinger’s push that has made it possible. Lathrop’s pitch was that such a show would give this population an opportunity to showcase their talents, which is often denied to them.

Asinger was likely receptive to the idea as she spent some of her formative years playing with my younger siblings, Laura and Tom Day, when her family, the Kessels, lived in our neighborhood. Tom, who has Down syndrome, would occasionally hang out and create mischief with Laura and Kristin, like any kids that age.

I like to think that Asinger’s childhood friendship with Tom was beneficial to both when he performed years later in her Kiwanis Kapers productions — and possibly helped pave the road for the current show. By the way, Tom performs in the Laurel and Hardy skit in the production.

The patience exhibited by Asinger and other production members with every single performer in the show is delightful to witness.

“Come on out now, it’s time for rehearsal,” Asinger was heard saying through the door of the restroom to one of the female performers.

“Ok, mama,” the performer playfully replied.

Other touching on-stage moments occur when the group sings the “New York, New York” song as a tribute to the late Mike Walter, a well-known ambassador in the community for people with special needs. Walter had really loved the Frank Sinatra song and had hoped to sing it during the show. Another group song, the finale “Fight My Battles,” with its symbolic overtones for most of the performers, has the power to move all to tears.

There are the fun moments, too, however, with jokes provided by stand-up comics as well as by a number of natural comedians in skits. Asinger noted that many of the acts were inspired by actors who had always hoped to try their hand with a particular song, joke or comedy routine.

The Little Mermaid song, “Part of Your World,” by Casey Langianese, is an example of this. After her dress rehearsal performance, Langianese said it was her favorite song as she identifies with the Little Mermaid, who couldn’t be part of an unreachable world at first.

It’s pretty evident with this production that Langianese and her peers on stage are finally getting a chance to be a part of the world that for many years was unreachable.

Here’s hoping the community will support these performers in their inaugural production — and that many more such performances will follow in years to come.

Originally posted in The Bradford Era