Acting troupe Creative Chaos is ready to expand beyond the stage.
Beginning February next year, monthly social events will become a regular fixture for the group, which has provided a theatrical outlet for people with disabilities for the past three years.
After experiencing the draw of social programs for people with disabilities in Eugene, Creative Chaos founder Carmen Dowell saw the potential for the troupe to extend its reach into the social lives of its members and others in the Cottage Grove community.
“The sad thing is, we don’t have anything like that down here,” said Dowell. “I just thought about my mission of Creative Chaos and said, ‘There’s no reason why we can’t do it.’”
The events aren’t limited to Creative Chaos members, however.
“It’s open to the whole community and surrounding areas,” said Dowell. “I just want a social event once a month for them.”
The new monthly events will kick off on Feb. 7 with a “Sweetheart Dance,” opening up the Opal Theater with music and refreshments.
Future events will include game nights, karaoke, crafts, movies and other themed get-togethers. Entry fees are $5 or less and proceeds are put directly into funds for the following events.
“My goal is that they invite friends and want to keep coming,” said Dowell.
T-shirts will also be sold at the troupe’s plays to fund the monthly events and, Dowell hopes, a karaoke machine.
In its show production capacity, Creative Chaos has already served as a social outlet for its members.
“I just like being with my friends,” said member Kim Sewel-Wentz. “Everyone is awesome.”
Member Elaine Coffman was in the audience for last year’s play and was inspired to join the group this year, acting for the first time this September in the troupe’s “Somewhere in Time” production.
While she enjoyed the creativity and hard work involved with the play, Coffman said her favorite part was working with Dowell.
“She gave me confidence that I never had,” Coffman said.
Sharnee Prescott has been with Creative Chaos for years, but until now has shied away from the spotlight.
“Three years I’ve been working backstage,” said Prescott. “I’m usually pretty reserved and quiet … but I decided to give it a try.”
Meanwhile, the 12-member cast of Creative Chaos is continuing to prepare for its first Christmas play, set to run Dec. 13, 14 and 15.
The production is on a tighter deadline than previous shows, but Dowell said the group is up to the challenge.
“I see so much growth in them. It’s amazing,” she said. “Watching the older seniors take in the new ones and help them out is pretty awesome.”
Dowell said the Christmas-themed play will raise the bar for the group and what the community might expect from them.
“Our goal is to surprise the audience with something that I think most people have in their mind that people with disabilities cannot do,” she said. “We want to shock them a little bit [showing] that we can do this.”
Tickets for the Christmas play went on sale Nov. 1 but were sold out within a week.
Creative Chaos is also working with the donation program Tree of Joy by accepting unwrapped toys, warm hats and gloves at the door of all performances.
As none of the Creative Chaos members drive, Dowell is soliciting donations of time or money to aid with transportation.
“Some of them live far out and I would hate for someone to miss out due to transportation,” said Dowell. “My husband and I have been taxis for years but would greatly appreciate more help.”
For more information on volunteering or sponsoring, contact Carmen Dowell at 541-285-5475 or visit online at creativechaoscg.org.