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Because everyone deserves a standing ovation

Helping actors push their limits to stand in the spotlight

Like every mom, Sam wanted to stand up and applaud as she watched her child’s dreams come true.

So she made it happen.

It began when her son, Christopher, looked at her and said: “When is it going to be my turn on the stage?”

Sam went looking for a theater organization where Christopher – then in his 20s – and other actors who face cognitive or physical limitations could have their moment in the spotlight.

She couldn’t find it.

So, she rolled up her sleeves and founded one.

Now, two decades later, The Detour Company Theatre in Phoenix is home to approximately 80 actors who are learning to channel everything from Shrek to Shakespeare – and making the community jump to their feet in appreciation.

Thinking about a detour in a new way

“I think everybody who walks this earth deserves to be on stage. If that’s their dream, they deserve to have that opportunity,” says Sam, who (like other rock stars) goes by a single name. “My job is to help those dreams come true.”

Detour, a nonprofit organization, provides arts opportunities to people who are blind or deaf, those with Down syndrome or autism, and to those who – like Christopher – have brain damage.

Since its founding in 2003, Detour Company Theatre has grown into a community program that offers everything from beginning acting classes to a traveling group. Sam, who serves as artistic director, and other staffers develop classes and workshops tailored to participants’ interests.

The Main Stage troupe performs in the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, where every seat is filled at their semiannual productions, which have included everything from “Legally Blonde: The Musical” to “Beauty and the Beast.” In June, the group will perform the ABBA-inspired musical “Mamma Mia!”

The traveling troupe – Detour on Tour – allows veteran actors to take Detour on the road to community organizations throughout the area, spreading the word about how people of all abilities can succeed and find joy in the arts.

Theater for everyone

The organization relies on volunteers to lend a hand with costume, sets, props and coaching.

Whataburger is proud to be a community partner with Detour Company Theatre, supporting the group’s productions since 2016.

“We want to do everything we can to enhance success,” Sam says. “Things that we do without thinking about them are really tough for my actors.”

For some actors, walking up a step or saying a word might be a complicated process. A blind actor might need coaches to count steps to center stage so she can sing and be independent. Behind-the-scenes crews might need to find just the right word for an actor with minimal speech.

“Detours are those things in our lives that force us to slow down. They force us to get to the same destination but through a different path,” Sam says. “And sometimes they give us something wonderfully new to think about because we have to take a breath and really live in the now.”

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