Cupid’s Crush Dinner Dance has a Major Impact on special needs actors

Major Impact Theater, a nonprofit theater company with actors with special needs celebrates Valentine's Day with the Cupid's Crush Dinner Dance Sunday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Major Impact Theater held its second annual Cupid’s Crush Dinner Dance Fundraiser at The Centre on Sunday evening.

Major Impact Theater is a nonprofit organization that helps adults with special needs develop their confidence and presentation skills through theater arts. Cupid’s Crush is one of two fundraisers Major Impact holds to help finance its two annual shows. The actors, with their friends, family and members of the community, gathered for a night of food, a photo booth, live music, dancing and a “meet the actors” showcase.

“This is our second year doing the dinner dance and everyone had a marvelous fun last year that we had to do it again,” said Joan Major, a board member and parent of one of the actors. “We actually expanded this year to a much larger venue. Last year we had about 80 attendees and this year we’re happy to be expecting about 150 people.”

Louis Paparozzi’s son David is an actor with Major Impact. David has autism, but though he doesn’t speak much, he loves portraying more physical tasks, such as dancing.

“David has a harder time making friends but Major Impact allows him to be in a place with a lot of people who are looking out for him and want to be friends with him,” Louis said. “This is a big boost to his confidence and it makes him feel like he’s a part of the ‘normal’ world. This fundraiser is great because it not only helps our organization take care of expenses like costumes, but it brings us together for a once-a-year event to celebrate the lives of the actors.”

Shawnda Davis, one of Major Impact’s founders said she created the group five years ago after she ran a successful theater fundraiser while working with a adult day program and is proud to see how the program has thrived and been accepted by the community.

“Usually when you’re dealing with special needs individuals you see they are treated differently, given a different set of expectations and met with a lot of staring,” Davis said. “I’m so happy to see the changes that people with disabilities are more accepted by mainstream society to where there are ads on TV about hiring people with special needs. Our program is very serious and professional and we have crowds of about 500 people coming to see our shows, so the support from Santa Clarita is amazing.”

Davis talked about actors she has met who spoke very little before entering the program and after the first production wanted more active roles. She also said she would like to expand Major Impact to reach more special needs individuals and is trying to reorganize the program’s structure to be able to meet that.

Actor Matt Adams said he enjoys the opportunities that Major Impact Theater offers and was looking forward to spending the night dancing with his girlfriend.

“Major Impact has become my family and being involved has helped me become more social,” Adams said. “Every week we get to perform in front of our a large crowd and no one makes fun of us because of our disabilities. Even if we make mistakes, we aren’t judged.”

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