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Senior Arbittier focuses her two theses on disability issues

June 4th, 2020

As the pandemic shut down theaters across the country, it also created a significant challenge at Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts: Many senior thesis projects include a live performance of an original work.

One of many senior projects affected  was “BLOOM: The Musical,” Rosie Arbittier’s thesis work to complete a certificate in the Program in Music Theater. Arbittier developed the musical in partnership with Best Buddies, an international organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

At Princeton, she became involved with the Best Buddies Princeton chapter and in spring 2019 proposed as her thesis to produce a musical that involved a cast of young people with and without IDD. When she did not find an existing musical that met the goals she hoped to accomplish, she began working on devising a new work. In October she held a daylong workshop of theater games, activities and auditions for members of the local community with IDD and, joined by a group of Princeton students, assembled the cast and production team for the project. In November the group began creating the new musical and rehearsing weekly on Sundays for seven months. Early in the process, Arbittier heard the song “Bloom,” composed by her friend Lily Webb; that song became the springboard for the new musical and the title song.

Jane Cox, senior lecturer in theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts and director of the Program in Theater, was Arbittier’s faculty adviser and the Program in Theater engaged theater director and activist David Bradley to serve as an additional adviser and resource to Arbittier.

Just a few weeks before opening night, the University moved to remote classes and canceled all events and activities for the rest of the semester. While this meant the production as envisioned by Arbittier and the team would not happen, they embraced the spirit of “the show must go on.” Arbittier organized the cast of performers with and without IDD in a virtual presentation of the musical’s title song, “Bloom” in stay-at-home circumstances, with orchestration by Vince Di Mura, musical director of the Lewis Center. View the video.

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