The Penguin Project

Serving Children with Disabilities

The Talent Machine Company is the first Central Maryland partner of The Penguin Project, an award-winning nationwide program that provides a supportive, encouraging theater experience for children with disabilities.

On May 17 and 18, 2024, we will perform our first show featuring a full cast of children with disabilities who will be paired with peer mentors. These mentors will be supporting their mentees throughout four months of rehearsals and the performances.

If you know of a child or young person between the ages of 10 and 21 with a disability who would like to participate in this extraordinary experience, or if you know of someone who would like to be a peer mentor to make this experience possible, email Kim Dixon, Program Director,

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Penguin Project partnership all about? Beginning in 2024, Talent Machine and the Penguin Project will work together to produce one show each year featuring young artists with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, visual impairment, hearing impairment, and other neurological disorders. By providing access to community theater, The Penguin Project demonstrates that the special challenges of a disability should not handicap a child’s ability to participate in life’s experiences.

Besides the children on stage, who is involved? The Penguin Project’s staff will serve as an experienced resource for The Talent Machine team, offering both periodic on-site guidance and comprehensive guidelines and information to ensure the success of this experience for all involved.  The cast members will be joined on stage by a dedicated group of “peer mentors” – young people the same age without disabilities who have volunteered to work side-by-side with the performers through four months of rehearsals and the final shows.

What is the value of this experience? Since 2004, The Penguin Project has found that when children participate in the performing arts, it enhances social interaction, communication skills, self-confidence and self-esteem. The program also reaches beyond the stage to create a social network for children who previously had few friends and limited social opportunities.

How can I get involved?  We are currently seeking youth to be part of the project as both performers and mentors. Our goal is to serve students ages 10-21.  Performers and mentors can attend any school, public or private, or be homeschooled.

What is the time commitment?  There will be two rehearsals a week over the course of four to five months, followed by our two performances in May 2024.

Where and when will this take place? Rehearsals and performances will take place at the Mid Atlantic Community Church (MACC) on Rt. 424 (Davidsonville Road) in Gambrills, near Crofton.  Rehearsals will be Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons.  The performances will be Friday, May 17 in the evening and Saturday, May 18 in the afternoon.

Is there a cost to be involved?  Each participant will pay a $50 fee that will cover the cast shirt, cast party and insurance for the company.  If this creates a barrier for the student to be able to participate, please talk to The Talent Machine staff privately, as waivers are available.

Who can I contact for more information?  For more information, email Kim Dixon, Program Director, at

The Joy and Power of Musical Theater

Photos and testimonials courtesy of The Penguin Project and their partnering theaters and schools from across the country.

Why is Talent Machine partnering with The Penguin Project? 

“I see every day how empowering it is for all children and teens to be part of a musical theater production. We have had the joy of involving kids with disabilities in our shows before, but we’ve had to do it on a small, manageable scale. Now, in partnership with The Penguin Project, we will be able to expand our reach and give more kids the chance to experience what it’s like to be part of a team, to create something, to shine. We are thrilled to bring this opportunity to our area.”

Lea Capps, President
The Talent Machine Company


From an Artist Parent: “Our daughter was involved as an artist, and we found ourselves drawn into an amazing experience. From the first rehearsals we watched, we were captured by the passion of the leaders working with the students and the compassion of the mentors and their families.” 

From an Artist: “I just wanted to say thank you … It’s magical, your program, how it changes people and brings us all together into something like a family … I used to just think ‘oh I can’t dance’ because that’s what everyone always told me …  Now I think ‘why not?’ Disability does not define you … So thank you, Penguin Project, for opening up my eyes and for giving me something to look forward to.”

From a Mentor Parent: “My daughter has been a mentor since the beginning of the Penguin Project. Her best friends are from the Penguin Project, both artists and mentors. She does not look at the disabilities and realizes that everyone has their own talents. She is now a junior in high school and wants to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy, something she never would have thought about had it not been for the wonderful experiences she has had in the Penguin Project.”