Actress shines on the stage despite life's hurdles

Fellow actors celebrate World Down Syndrome Day

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  • Photo provided Rachel Bailey with her class on stage at Acting-a-Part during last week's surprise celebration. Bailey's teacher and peers presented her with flowers and celebrated World Down Syndrome Day.



Down Syndrome facts

Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.
There are three types of Down syndrome: trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) accounts for 95 percent of cases, translocation accounts for about 4 percent and mosaicism accounts for about 1 percent.
Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome.
There are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States.
Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels.
The incidence of births of children with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother. But due to higher fertility rates in younger women, 80 percent of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age.
People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer's disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions. Many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.
A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm. Every person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees or not at all.
Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades — from 25 in 1983 to 60 today.
People with Down syndrome attend school, work, participate in decisions that affect them, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.
All people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, but the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses.
Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.
— National Down Syndrome Society web site (www.ndss.org)

Rachel Bailey loves acting. She has a great memory, so lines aren't a problem for her. In the rare instances that she's forgotten one, she's carried on just like a professional actor.

Rachel, 22, also loves to sing and is receiving coaching at Acting-a-Part in Sparta.

"I look forward to coming and acting and expressing myself and I would love to one day be in a Broadway play."
— Rachel Bailey

One other thing about Rachel — she has Down Syndrome.

World Down Syndrome Day
Rachel knows that, because of Down Syndrome, certain things in life challenge her more than other people. Yet through acting, she's gained a sense of self-confidence that's helped her overcome adversity.

Her friends at Acting-a-Part, along with her teacher, Kristin Jackson, surprised her on Friday, March 21 to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. The day is marked to raise awareness of the strengths and accomplishments of those who have Down Syndrome.

They wore yellow and blue and presented her with yellow flowers with a blue ribbon. One cast member brought blue and yellow cupcakes while another made blue and yellow cookies and Jackson made fruit kabobs with pineapple and blueberries.

"We had a great time telling her how much she means to us," Jackson said.

The power of the stage
After the celebration, it was back to work on the production of "Grease" in which Rachel has the role of Charlene "Cha-Cha" DiGregorio.

Rachel's mother, Sue, said the acting has been fantastic for her daughter.

"She's always liked costumes and as a child would watch 'Sesame Street' and act out what was going on the television," Sue said.

During high school, Rachel was part of the show "Once on this Island." She graduated from North Warren High and realizing her affinity for acting, her mother started looking for a school that included people with developmental disabilities. That's when she discovered Acting-A-Part — which is a Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) certified school — where Rachel started going to classes in 2002 working toward the performance of the musical, "Les Miserables."

Acting-A-Part
Acting-A-Part has grown from owner Erika Lupo's dream into a thriving theater company and movie studio that has locations in Sparta and Ridgewood. Acting-A-Part offers classes for children as young as age four through adults.

Lupo started the business in a small location in 2002, and by 2004, with increasing enrollment and growing interest in the school, she bought the building where the Sparta location is currently housed.

In 2010, she added film classes and has been producing original movies all with student actors, technical crew and editors she has taught.

One of Lupo's philosophies is that the joy of live theater should be shared by everyone regardless of developmental or physical disabilities.

"[Rachel] has been a pleasure right from the start,"Jackson said. "She was a cast member in her first production with us and has worked up to having some great roles. She's amazing because she knows some of the musicals better than I do and will even correct me at times."

Jackson added that Rachel has mastered something it takes young actors years to do.

"With most actors, it takes a very long time to learn to just carry on if you miss a line," Jackson said. "Everyone misses a line every now and then, but most stumble. Not Rachel. On the rare occasions she's done it, she's just doesn't break she just keeps on going like nothing happened and that's pretty amazing."

Rachel has since gone on to be in performances such as: "Hairspray," "Sound of Music," "Guys and Dolls," "West Side Story" and "Grease."

In addition to her acting, Rachel has a job in her home town at the Blairstown Hair Company, is taking a Life Skills Course at Sussex County Community College and enjoys swimming.

"Acting has helped her a lot with her social skills and to learn how to take criticism and learn that no one is perfect all the time," Sue said.

"I love this place," Rachel said, "I look forward to coming and acting and expressing myself and I would love to one day be in a Broadway play."

Her joy expressed through acting is contagious amongst others on the stage.

"She's just a ray of light," Jackson said.

Rachel's class will perform Grease on April 3 and 4. For further information about the performance or Acting-A-Part's numerous classes and summer camps, visit www.actingapart.com.

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