“CARLSBAD — A lifetime spent helping and working with special needs students has taken a new turn for a local actor.

Samantha Ginn, who performs regularly at the New Village Arts Theater and recently wrapped the comedy “The Servant of Two Masters,” has a passion to create new opportunities for special needs actors.

Partnering with New Village Arts, Ginn and Executive Artistic Director Kristianne Kurner established a program five years ago specific to include neurodiverse actors into the theater’s offerings.

Ginn’s passion comes from her mother, who was a special needs teacher. After graduating from college, Ginn, who was raised in Carlsbad and now resides in University Heights, also worked as a special needs preschool teacher in Solana Beach. She has since moved on to other opportunities, including creating an avenue for special needs individuals to get paid for acting in community theater.

“That’s kind of where my training comes in,” Ginn said of her teaching days. “I see how much theater and music is a great teaching tool for these students. I went independent … teaching them social skills and any goals they’re working on in life, I used theater and improve to help facilitate that.”

Ginn and Kurner started small five years ago offering one class every five to six weeks. As it grew, the program was rebranded Monday Night Live! where 15 special needs students practice their craft once a week for six weeks in the spring and fall and write their own sketch comedy show.

And as word started to spread about the program, so did the programming including the Mainstage Players, where the selected students rehearse with their neurotypical peers for the big New Village Arts shows.”

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