It’s a running theme in the beloved musical “Seussical” and a guiding philosophy at the Loudoun-based Arts for All organization.
For directors and performers, “Seussical Jr.” is the perfect show as the troupe makes its return to the Loudoun stage after a two-year hiatus. The local production runs March 18-20 and March 25-27 at the Franklin Park Arts Center. It’s a triumphant return for an organization that has brought kids and adults of all abilities together for more than three decades.
“It’s been a fun process. It’s been nice to see people get back in the groove. It’s also been nice to welcome our new actors into the wonderful world of Arts for All,” said the show’s director Amanda Barr, a longtime Arts for All volunteer, now a program specialist for Loudoun’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.
Barr originally selected “Seussical” as Arts for All’s spring 2020 production, and actors had been rehearsing since the fall of 2019. But, as it did for many community organizations, the pandemic brought things to a screeching halt.
“We were one day from tech week. I had to stand in front of all of them and say we were canceling it. My son cried all the way home,” said Arts for All board President Jody Rodgers, whose son Ian plays Horton the Elephant.
But the group has bounced back, and while some actors have moved on, many actors have returned to their roles. Ian Rodgers, known for his gorgeous singing voice, is back as Horton. For Jody Rodgers, it’s another chance to blow away new and returning audience members with the cast’s tremendous talent and joy and fabulous costumes and sets.
“A lot of people think, ‘I’m just going to go to this play because I’m supporting people with disabilities.’ But it’s life-changing for the audience. It’s really good,” Rodgers said.
Arts for All was created as VSA in 1989 to provide performance opportunities for people with disabilities but has a long history of welcoming cast members without disabilities.
“So often these are the adolescents and adults who don’t get real representation in the arts … That’s why this organization was started,” Rodgers said.
Ian, now 26, has been involved with the group since age 10 and has earned several starring roles, including a knockout performance as Tigger in “Winnie the Pooh.”
“I’m excited and I’m a little nervous,” said Lily Coonan of Purcellville who reprises her role as an “It’s Possible” dancer in the 2022 production after being cast in 2020. Lily, who will celebrate her 15th birthday during the show’s second weekend of performances, said one of the upsides of doing the show again after months of rehearsals in 2020 is the familiarity cast members have with the ins and outs of the show.
“I know all the songs,” she said with a smile.
The 2022 production also brought in new talent, with around half the cast returning from 2020, Barr said.
Ben Verhey of Round Hill is new to the show—and to Arts for All—and is having a blast. Ben, a 9-year-old, fourth-grader at Round Hill Elementary School, and his parents found out about Arts for All after he did a theater camp at Franklin Park last summer. Ben is cast as an octopus and a Wickersham monkey in the show and has decided that singing and acting are his jam.
“I’ve been really enjoying it,” Ben said. “I’ve been to a couple of plays, and it’s more fun to do it than it is to watch it.”
Barr, now 26, also started her involvement with Arts for All at age 9 and encourages performers of all abilities to get involved as a fun and enriching experience.
“It’s a great experience. … Arts for All is an openly available organization where you can come and learn about the community…It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Barr said.
Barr volunteered as stage manager for the company during high school and returned to Loudoun to work for PRCS after graduating from Radford University with a degree in theater performance.
She now has two teen volunteers from Woodgrove High School as her stage managers. Zoe Joseph and George Hughes are Woodgrove juniors with a passion for theater and volunteering. Joseph started out as an actor for Arts for All and wanted to keep contributing to the organization even as her busy schedule kept her off stage.
“I still wanted to be involved,” Joseph said.
For Hughes, the play is a family affair; his dad Nigel plays the Grinch and brother Tom plays JoJo in the production. After a crazy two years for students of all abilities, helping an enthusiastic group of performers return to the stage has been rewarding.
“We’re kind of starting to get back to normal and that’s a great thing,” Hughes said.
For Barr, the same reasons she chose “Seussical” in 2020 have made it the perfect show to come back to post-pandemic, with its message of friendship, loyalty, and community.
“Something in my gut and in my heart was telling me we needed to do ‘Seussical’ because of its representation,” Barr said. “I feel like those characters represent our actors so well. They can do whatever they want. They can be whoever they want to be.”
Arts For All’s production of Seussical Jr. runs March 18-20 and March 25-27 at Franklin Park Arts Center. Friday and Saturday shows take place at 7 p.m. Sunday shows take place at 3 p.m. Advance tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students, children and seniors. Add $5 at the door. For more information and to check out Ian Rodgers’ promotional video, go to