All-inclusive Iowa City performing arts company prepares for winter play

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A performing arts company in Iowa City combines efforts between artists that don't usually collaborate. Many of the actors are used to exploring difficult topics in their own lives and now on a stage.

"Janet has a really wonderful script and it's definitely something that needs to be examined," said Actress Kathy Maxey.

This group is called "Combined Efforts." It has a 15 year history of being inclusive to people with disabilities.

"I was a Special Ed teacher at City High School and I kept seeing students coming in doing spot-on imitations of teachers so I thought, not that it was rude but that it was kind of good,” said Combined Efforts Executive Director Janet Schlapkohl.

This winter the performing arts company is presenting the play "Shell Shocked." It's soldiers returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries. It’s a difficult topic about desperately needing help but finding none.

"I feel like everyone has an equal voice in it and we like to do plays about marginalized populations or maybe topics that are not generally covered," said Schlapkohl.”

Combined Efforts brings together people with and without disabilities. The collaborative process is just as important as the final product.

"I have never really done any behind the scenes work before for a play with Combined Efforts, even though I was part of the plays before on stage," said Shell Shocked Assistant Director Kalvin Goodlaxson.

"It's really fun,” said Shell Shocked Actress Ryann Sirios. “I always try to model my characters after famous classic actors that I've seen in movies. I always try to think, how would they play that?"

Doors open December 15th at the Iowa City Theatre Space in the Johnson County Fairgrounds. It goes on through the weekend at 2 p.m. 7:30p.m. Tickets are 10 dollars and 5 for children.