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Enhancing the lives of learning-disabled adults through the theater arts

It is with great sadness we must report that Thomas Weinberger passed away in his sleep on Wednesday night. This is a blow to East End Special Players in many ways. Thomas was a long time member and was helpful in providing stability and leadership within the group. He was a born comedian and an accomplished impressionist. Moreover, his roll as the building super in the upcoming production is pivotal. There will be a time of mourning the loss of Thomas. We all need to reflect on what his absence will mean to the group.

A Walk on Water Surf Event in Honor of The Sax Leader Foundation a Huge Success!

The players at rehearsal for their latest production

Players in "Trouble in Jamaica, a Stinking, Dirty Musical".


The East End Special Players have been creating theater since 1985. Started as a Saturday program for the developmentally disabled by the Towns of East Hampton and Southampton, their first director, Helen Rudman, chose theater as the emphasis of the program.  

The Players have performed at the Governor’s mansion in Albany, at Camp Venture in Westchester, at Guild Hall in East Hampton, Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, Westhampton Performing Arts, Southampton College and Dowling College.

In recent years, their performances in local high schools have garnered standing ovations as students experience valuable awareness of the abilities of the learning challenged.


There are some 25 actors who comprise the troupe.  Some speak, others do not.  Some can memorize their lines, others are prompted.  Some are natural actors, others have to be coaxed on stage but what they can do, what they have accomplished is astounding.

  • Twenty years ago the Players performed only in mime today they are not only acting with words and music, they create the plays themselves.  
  • Their first original play, "You Are A Petunia In My Garden", was a series of vignettes in exploration of their lives: what they do and feel and wish for as learning-challenged adults.
  • The current show "Gigi: The Life of a Doll" continues to mine this enlightening exploration of their lives, loves and memories.


Director, Jacqui Leader challenges her troupe to reach to the uppermost levels of their abilities and beyond. She teaches them to enunciate, memorize and improvise searching inside themselves for emotion and inspiration.

It takes more than a year to develop the plays, but with each subsequent production the actors have stretched their abilities with unique theatrical challenges.   

  • Commedia de l’Arte - Moliere’s “Scams of Scapin”
  • Romance - “Cyrano de Bergerac”
  • Ancient Irish myth - “The Legend of Deirdre”  
  • African folktales and dance - “Kokrobite”
  • Tableaux vivant - “The Fish Juggler”

The plays are fully realized theater presentations and in many productions artists, dancers and musicians from the community join the Players on stage.   

  • to enhance the lives of learning challenged adults through theater arts
  • to create in each Player a strong self-image with pride in himself or herself
  • to develop skills and talents which have heretofore not been tapped.  

The goal of the East End Special Players is to reach out to other similarly engaged groups as well as audiences of all kinds and bring more visibility and understanding to this invisible segment of our society.