Charleston’s own HEART returns with the funny and the feel-goods as it debuts original production STAR, Super Talented Actors Rasslin’. Safe to say they had us at “rasslin’.”

An inclusive arts community providing art mentorship for special needs adults, HEART has spent the past year prepping STAR, a GLOW-inspired comedy about a group of out-of-work actors who catch the wrestling, er, rasslin’ bug. The misfits get involved with a wrestling show run by William “Al-right, Alright” Simmons (a B-movie director) and a rich kid/wrestling obsessive named Jimmy “The Boss” Miller.

The star of the show? That would be one Reba “The Italian Tickler” Abele (played by HEART’s Rebecca Abele), an Italian pro wrestler who has moved to the States to retire, start a family, and steer clear of the spotlight. Reba meets a few characters at a bar who trick her into auditioning for a wrestling movie, and hijinks ensue.

“The concept came from the HEARTists loving WWE and wanting to do a wrestling-themed show and a love story,” says founding director and script writer Farrah Hoffmire. “I then used the Netflix series GLOW as inspiration to create a storyline. We have to write our own productions because we make a part for all participants based on their abilities.”


Hoffmire wrote the production (and previous HEART shows, like last year’s Love Frequency) using the input of everyone from the HEART staff to mentors to participants, who she calls “HEARTists.” Every current HEARTist, a total of 21, perform in STAR, plus there’s an additional 21 performers who are mentors. “[The HEARTists] are excited to perform for big crowds and ‘be a star,'” says Hoffmire. “We have two to three new participants who are shy and not sure what to expect but enjoy getting dressed up in costume and trying new things. All of the HEARTists love being a part of these productions and having their families and friends coming out to support them. They love picking out their costumes and seeing themselves in professional photographs and videos.”

Preparation for STAR has included everything from workshopping the play at BoomTown back in November to ongoing band and choir rehearsals (a long list of local musicians — including guitarist Mitchell Davis, drummer John Picard, keyboardist Henry Schrecker, bassist Jeff Nark, ukelele master Noodle McDoodle, and saxist Ian Sanchez — and vocalists have signed onto STAR). With anywhere from 20 to 50 participating performers involved at any given HEART show, planning ahead — even a year ahead — is key. It’s also what makes their performances so unique: all of the, well, heart that’s been poured into each detail for months on end.

What audiences should walk away with after STAR is a powerful sense of all HEART is: an engaging, enriching program that survives and thrives on community, where people of all abilities can make quality art. “We want people to see for themselves that people with special needs have a lot to teach us ‘neurotypicals,'” Hoffmire says. “The STAR story has a message of its own, which is centered around the complexities of creating a family and living one’s dreams and believing in oneself, teamwork, and perseverance.”

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