‘Right there next to me’
Four years ago, Brandon Gladfelter came to the Penguin Project, a program that pairs special-needs students with mentors to put on a play. He found T.J. the first day.
Today, they’re just two actors, awaiting a new show this spring. But Brandon still remembers their first performance: the curtain went up and T.J. wasn’t there. Brandon stepped in to perform for his new friend, worried. Soon enough, though, T.J. was back.
“He was right there next to me,” Brandon says, “and he took over from there.”
Spotlight on hope
On the opening night of T.J.’s first show, a cast member told him to break a leg. That’s why he wasn’t on stage. That’s why Brandon had to perform. T.J. was scared his leg would be hurt.
But perseverance can outlast fear and worry. And the stage was set for redemption.
One year later a young actor walked with purpose back into the spotlight to perform High School Musical. His only wish, he recalled, was to inspire others.
The audience waited for his line. Family leaned forward in their chairs.
“Break a leg,” T.J. said to the crowd, and to anyone else brave enough to chase a dream.