Our History

Established out of necessity for inclusion in the performing arts, Acting Without Boundaries has been providing people with physical disabilities center stage since 2004. See where it all began, how we’ve grown, and where we’re headed next.

The start

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    AWB children actors in costume

    AWB is formed as a theater program for children and teens with physical disabilities

    Growing up, Christine Rouse, Founder and Executive Director of AWB, often felt socially isolated in school because of her disability. Christine attempted time and again to fuel her passion for theater by trying out for plays in high school, only to be repeatedly cast in the chorus or background. She wanted to create a place where people “like her’’ could be the stars of the show–so she did.
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    AWB forms a Juniors program for children and the original cast of actors move up into what is now called the AWB Seniors program.

    As our number of participants expanded, so did our programs! Monthly six hour workshops are created to accommodate two year-round programs, which culminate in live stage theater performances in the spring for AWB Juniors, and in the fall for AWB Seniors. Sets, costumes, props and sound are of a professional quality theater organization and our actors shine on stage.
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    Two AWB Seniors performing on stage

    AWB celebrates ten years of uninterrupted programming.

    AWB programs offer an immediate sense of belonging in a nurturing and supportive community. Each actor confronts at least one physical disability, including paralysis resulting from birth or an accident, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, stroke, brain injuries, blindness, or spina bifida (and others) which are often coupled with co-occurring disabilities.
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    AWB Hero award recipient Lauren DeBruicker

    AWB creates the Hero Award to celebrate a community leader with a physical disability.

    The Hero Award is given to a community leader with a physical disability who displays extraordinary efforts to overcome adversity, increase disability awareness, reduce stigma, and enhance community access for people with disabilities.
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    Joyful AWB Acting Lab participant

    AWB launches the AWB Masters and AWB Acting Lab programs.

    As the only known performing arts organization in the tri-state area that exclusively serves people with physical disabilities, we wanted to share our 15 years of knowledge and expertise with others. The AWB Acting Lab has enabled us to work with other organizations serving people with physical disabilities, expand our outreach, and share the therapeutic benefits of the performing arts. For AWB participants who have completed one or more of our programs and want to dive deeper into the performing arts, our AWB Masters program offers a yearly 4-day intensive workshop for actors to further hone their acting chops.
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    AWB expands into video

    With an abundance of warmth and care for our cherished AWB community, we pivoted to virtual programming within weeks of the pandemic and lockdown. Despite the uncharted landscape, AWB was determined to continue programs and move forward. We created new opportunities for our actor participants and stretched outside of our comfort zone to create some amazing digital video masterpieces. Our clarity of sight in 2020 emphasized our participants’ needs, and the crucial role AWB plays in their lives.
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    AWB Acting lab in process

    AWB gets strategic

    Through the strategic planning process, we challenged our assumptions to ensure a focused roadmap into our third decade of programming. We revitalized our marketing efforts through the creation of a new website and updated social media channels to enhance organizational awareness. All done in an effort to reduce barriers of entry for participants and audiences, and to welcome new friends to AWB.
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    AWB Seniors on the set of Newsies

    Entering our third decade

    As we look back at the past two decades of AWB programs and growth, we remain excited about where we’ll go next. We’re thrilled to continue supporting and elevating people with physical disabilities through the performing arts.
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Help Us Keep The Timeline Going!

Thanks to you, AWB has been able to grow for the past twenty years. Your continued support will allow AWB to expand into the future.