A.B.L.E. – Artists Breaking Limits & Expectations – is a Chicago-based nonprofit offering creative arts opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome and other cognitive special needs. The program started in the fall of 2010 as the Teen Drama Troupe at GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago. Initially a weekly meeting of 6 young actors with Down syndrome and 2 volunteer teaching artists, the program quickly expanded to two classes a week accommodating an ensemble of 17 actors led by a roster of dedicated teaching artists. Realizing there was an incredible need for creative and social outlets of this kind, a core group of teaching artists branched out and founded A.B.L.E.

The organization is celebrating its first year as a 501c3, and is looking forward to #GivingTuesday as a valuable platform to raise awareness, and grow support.

Presently, A.B.L.E. hosts two ensembles, comprised of a total of 17 young adults with Down syndrome, ranging in age from 14-21. Many are long-term veterans of the program. Andrew Kosnik (21) was a founding member of the troupe and will graduate this December. He has participated in 11 stage productions and 3 short film projects with the troupe. Andrew’s mother Catherine says, “A.B.L.E. has helped Andrew make enormous social and cognitive developments. Watching Andrew onstage, I don’t see Down syndrome, I just see perfection and purity of heart and soul.” 

Supported by a team of professional teaching artists and volunteer facilitators, the ensembles meet for weekly rehearsals to participate in a range of theater games and activities aimed at exploring the characters and themes of the play. Along the way, actors build confidence and strengthen lifelong skills including speech and communication, focus, creativity, and teamwork.

Since its inception in 2010, the group has empowered actors by giving them ownership over timeless stories from Shakespeare to Lewis Carroll, and now Dickens. A.B.L.E. – Artists Breaking Limits and Expectations is currently rehearsing for the quintessential holiday story, A Dickens Christmas Carol and will present two unique performances on Saturday, December 17 at the historic Victory Gardens Biograph Theater in Chicago. Working with a script adaptation by local Chicagoan Gary Peterson, the ensemble will put their own spin on this classic story about compassion, memory, families, and forgiveness. Each performance is tailored to the individual strengths of the ensemble and features actors playing multiple roles, offering everyone a chance to be in the spotlight. You can follow the rehearsal process through our weekly Blog, and on Facebook and Instagram (@ableensemble). 

Leading up to this performance, A.B.L.E is celebrating the Scrooge in all of us – the Scrooge who learns it’s never too late to change, who springs for big Christmas goose, who befriends Tiny Tim.  

As a brand-new non-profit, your generosity matters greatly.  Be a Scrooge this #GivingTuesday and ensure our A.B.L.E. Ensemble can discover and share their own artistic voices and celebrate what makes us each unique!    

Ways to participate:

• Make a contribution! Your tax-deductible contribution will help us produce A Dickens Christmas Carol, purchase class supplies for this spring’s Pirates of Penzance, and help offset the cost of tuition for our classes and workshops.

• Scrooge it up! Surprise someone with a kind word or helpful act, snap a photo, and post it to Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #BeAScrooge. We'll be posting our own Scrooge-y acts all season long!

• Get Involved! Have a unique talent you can share with A.B.L.E? We want to hear about it! Send us a message and let us know if you can sew costumes, design a poster, take our actors’ headshots, or help out in any way.

So join us in saying, "bah humbug!" and get into the giving spirit!