Once, there lived an old man, disabled and alone in the world, languishing in a nursing facility far from his home. Yet, this silent, marginalized man rallied a community of supporters to help him find a loving home in his beloved town of Savannah, Ga., where he spent his final years.
"Welcome Home: The Waddie Welcome Story" is a new play about Waddie and the diverse community who grew to love and help him. Showing at the Emery Theatre for one day, May 12, it is also the story of young woman who has risen above her own disabilities to bring this story to the stage.
Nikki Booker was a student at Starfire U when she first read the book Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community. Starfire U, a post-secondary program designed for people with disabilities to explore and discover their talents, assigns a capstone project to its students. Booker decided to bring Waddie and his story to life as her capstone. She traveled to Savannah, Waddie Welcome’s hometown, to gather research and meet the people who had known him. She
commissioned a playwright to adapt the story, and by this February, she had completed fundraising for the project.
Just as in Waddie’s tale, the Cincinnati community began to rally around Booker’s dream of producing her play. Partnering with the Requiem Project and Starfire U, the Emery Theatre graciously offered free use of its facilities for two Saturday performances. Starfire U students will participate in the production, some as actors and others as crew. Aaron Kent of DIY Printing, which works closely with artists in its open printing studio, is printing all of the posters for the production, as well as teaching Booker how to screenprint.
Along with designer Jeni Jenkins, playwright Catie O’Keefe has worked closely with Booker to adapt the book into a script. Says O’Keefe of Booker, “She has been great to work with; she has a very clear vision of what she wants the production to be.”
If that vision is to show how much good people can bring to their communities, Booker has succeeded before the curtains even rise.
: a performance of "Welcome Home: The Waddie Welcome Story" at the Emery Theatre.
: about the play, Nikki Booker, and the partners who have made this production a reality.
By Becky Johnson