Jerry’s Habima Theatre, the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s (MJCCA) inclusive theater company, is celebrating 30 years with a production of “Cinderella: Youth Edition.”

Jerry’s Habima Theater is a professional theater company that features actors with disabilities and special needs in main roles. Artistic Director Kim Goodfriend has been with Habima since the beginning, and remembers the start of the company back in the 1980s. She was in college and working with the MJCCA, which had started to have some programming for people with developmental disabilities. 

“They were doing social things and getting together for meals and activities, but not anything arts-wise,” Goodfriend said. 

When someone suggested putting on a stage show, Goodfriend jumped at the chance. The first show Habima ever put on was Tom Stoppard’s “15-Minute Hamlet,” kicking off 30 years of productions. Over the years, Habima has put on a plethora of musicals, including one of Goodfriend’s favorite musicals, “The Addams Family,” which the company performed in 2017.

“The story in itself is all about somebody being different, looking different, and acting different,” Goodfriend said. “It was a challenge to pick something with comedic timing, and that director picked the right people. It was really wonderful. It was one of my biggest risks, and a favorite.”

From “15-Minute Hamlet” to “The Addams Family” to now “Cinderella,” Habima has certainly evolved over the years. Goodfriend said when the company first started, neurotypical actors and helpers would assist the main actors with remembering their lines and cues. But since that first show, Goodfriend said Habima’s actors have proven they can handle the challenge. 

“We now have neurotypical actors that are just ensemble leads. They lead around the ensemble people, who are also very talented,” Goodfriend said. “I would say our actors carry almost every scene of the whole show.”

Molly Drumm (center) and other actors in Jerry’s Habima Theatre’s production of “Cinderella: Youth Edition.”

One of the main actors in Habima’s production of “Cinderella” is 22-year-old Molly Drumm, who plays the titular role. This is Drumm’s first show with Habima, but she originally got really into theater when she was a teenager at Johns Creek High School. 

Drumm auditioned for the show in December, but the titular role wasn’t the one on her mind. 

“When I went into the audition, I actually wanted a stepsister,” Drumm said. “But when I got Cinderella, it was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.” 

Goodfriend said the youth edition of “Cinderella” seemed like a good fit for Habima. 

“Melodrama and simple stories with complex emotions give actors a way to express themselves, to develop characters,” she said. “So if they wanted to be quirky, or lonely, or shy, there’s plenty of range in these sorts of stories.” 

The show opens on March 9, and as the cast and crew continue with tech week, Drumm said her emotions are riding high.

“I’m getting excited. As we’re headed into tech week and we have more stuff, it’s getting very exciting,” Drumm said. “Plus, I found out some of my friends are coming to it, so I’m excited for them to see it.” 

Drumm said she would love to do more Habima shows in the future, and would be particularly interested in a Disney show because of how much she loves that type of music. Goodfriend is excited as always, and hopes that more theater companies and high schools can learn from how Habima has centered actors with developmental disabilities in its productions. 

“Anybody can do this. Any high school, any middle school, can integrate their students into the artform in some way,” she said. “Because the feeling of it live, standing at the edge of a stage and knowing that a room full of people is watching what you do and appreciating it, there’s nothing more life affirming than that.”

Tickets for “Cinderella: Youth Edition,” which opens March 9, have recently sold out. They are not able to add another show. You can keep track of future Habima shows on their website. 

This article has been updated to reflect that Habima cannot add another performance of “Cinderella: Youth Edition.”

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.