The Edgewood Children’s Ranch is one of Orlando REP’s longest running community partnerships. Orlando Family Stage has engaged students at The Ranch in a variety of theatrical experiences for over 10 years now. We are thrilled to continue serving young people living at The Ranch this season with an exciting series of artistic opportunities, which include both visual and theatrical projects.

Whether students visit the theatre, participate in pre- and post-show workshops, or perform in productions at The Ranch, the primary goal of the partnership is to instill values of connection, empowerment, empathy, and working together through the arts. Students step out of their comfort zones and onto the stage in a variety of ways. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a young person build enough self-confidence to perform in front of their peers, families, and community members. Each year, we are amazed with the growth the young people experience as they develop the skills needed to tell powerful stories on stage.

This year, Orlando Family Stage is excited to explore the themes and songs of Disney’s The Lion King with students from Edgewood. As a part of the project, students will attend Orlando REP’s Youth Academy production of Disney’s The Lion King Jr. on December 7th. In preparation for their own presentation coming this spring, they first explored the story through some dramaturgical activities. They analyzed the text through a visual art project developed by Renée Schneider, the founder of ArtWorks.

The student’s explored “Simba’s Choice” in the project outlined by Renée. “Throughout Disney’s The Lion King, Simba struggles with the choice: accept his responsibilities as heir to the throne, or run away and escape them. When Simba feels the warmth and sunshine in the savannah, and the love of his father, Mufasa, he leans toward accepting his inherited responsibilities. When influenced by Scar, Timon, and Pumbaa, Simba runs away to the cool seclusion of the jungle and chooses to escape. These banners created by students at Edgewood Children’s Ranch, express this dichotomy. Students painted warm (red, yellow, orange) and cool (blue, purple, green) backgrounds, then used ink and Styrofoam to print quotes that express acting or escaping responsibilities.”

The banners created by the students are featured in the Main Lobby outside of the Universal Orlando Theatre. The display will be featured throughout the weekend performances of Disney’s The Lion King Jr. at Orlando Family Stage and then remounted when the students at Edgewood perform their own version of the play. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to celebrate both Orlando REP’s Youth Academy and community partner, Edgewood Children’s Ranch.


In an interview about her wonderful work with Edgewood and Orlando REP, Renée shared the following:

How long have you worked with students at Edgewood Children’s Ranch? When did you start and why?

I have been working with students at Edgewood since 2012. I was introduced to Edgewood by Diane Messina, former Community Engagement Director at the Orlando Family Stage. Diane hired me as a teaching artist to add an art component to the drama program Orlando Family Stage was already doing at Edgewood. I developed art projects that enhanced and reinforced the themes of the plays Edgewood students would be attending at Orlando REP. As part of this program, some of the art the students created was exhibited in the Orlando Family Stage lobby.

Can you describe the current project they completed?

First each student selected a quote, then planned and designed the lettering for their quote on tracing paper. Next they used carbon paper to transfer the lettering, in reverse, to a large sheet of “Scratchfoam.” Using a pencil, students traced over the letters making a grooved impression of each letter to create a printing plate. Finally, they rolled black ink over the entire printing plate and pressed it onto large sheets of white paper to create a printed image of the quote.

When you think of Disney’s The Lion King, what themes come to mind? What do you hope the students will connect to in the story, the play, and their own future production?

I hope students will realize importance of accepting their responsibility to use the unique gifts and talents they each have been given to reach their greatest potential.

What inspires you to work in the community as a visual artist? What impact do you hope you’re making?

ArtWorks inspires hope and promotes healing in children who have faced the challenges of poverty, homelessness, physical or sexual abuse, and the destructive behaviors it can cause. Through innovative art programs, ArtWorks strives to build the children’ self esteem, discover creative talents and encourage future success.


If you’re interested in learning more about the many ways Orlando Family Stage serves young people in the community, contact [email protected]. If you’re interested in getting involved and supporting the great work Orlando Family Stage does to support young people in need, contact Vicki Landon, Development Director, [email protected].



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