Sean Wyatt and his friends are in their costumes.
It's less than five minutes before their production of "The Wizard of Oz" starts.
They have a lot more in common than the adrenaline they feel and their love of acting. Because for them, the stage is a place of possibilities for them all. The bright spot light drowns out limitations.
Sean Wyatt has needed that. He has needed a place where he can feel like he can do anything and be anything.
This night, he is Toto the dog. And he is ready for his big night in Oz.
A little birdie says Sean knows everyone's lines. He smiles and says, "I sure do!"
"He always makes his presence known on stage," Sean's parents chuckle. "He can totally upstage anyone," his mom adds.
But it wasn't always that way.
Sean is a twin.
He and his brother Grayson were both born prematurely. After their births, doctors told Sean's parents he had Down Syndrome.
"To be honest, I really didn’t know much about it,” his mother Margaret said. “It was a really uncertain time.” What they did know, beyond a doubt, is they wanted every opportunity for Sean to shine in this world.
Sean has always had charisma and charm, the personality of a star, despite many medical challenges.
“He had so much trouble with his hands when he was younger," Margaret said.
Just reaching for a spoon was a challenge, she said. He didn’t have muscle strength or coordination in his hands and fingers.
“He never picked up a cheerio," Margaret added. “There are so many things as a parent you take for granted.”
But he never stopped trying.
“That is who he is," Sean's dad said. “He has never complained.”
Unsteady numbers and letters on a school page only came after years and years of intensive therapy. And when a therapist handed him a ball, he decided working to strengthen his fingers to hold it firmly in his had wasn’t enough. The kid who had such a difficult time holding a crayon was determined to learn how to juggle.
It was something he’d watched a friend and mentor do in a show with Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s Jerry’s Habima Theatre. It is Georgia’s only theatrical company featuring actors with special needs.
Flash forward, to a moment in Sean’s living room in Atlanta. He shows 11Alive's Cheryl Preheim the juggling balls he spent hours practicing with. He stands up and starts to effortlessly throwing and catching them in the air. He has mastered the skill.
Cheryl gives him a high five as she considers that it has taken for him to reach this goal.
“You must be so proud,” she says.
“Oh, I’m very proud of myself,” Sean says, beaming.
When a real-life story like his is so grand, it is deserving of a spotlight all its own.
So, in the Habima Theatre production of Oz, where anything is possible, Toto juggles.
Sean is on stage, confident and happy. He holds his hand out for the audience and proclaims, “Yes, let the joyous news be spread, let the grand finale begin!”
The audience cheers. They cheer in appreciation for someone who refused to accept that he could not do something.
Sean Wyatt is Brave Conquers Fear.
Brave Conquers Fear | Sean Wyatt