At age 7, Morgan Williams was diagnosed with Asbergers Syndrome, a disease characterized by difficulties in socializing.
Which makes her effervescence in front of an audience just that much more amazing.
And no one talking to Morgan one-on-one would know it. The 17-year-old has sparkling eyes and a bubbly, gregarious demeanor.
“She’s a very thoughtful young person, she’s enthusiastic, and she works really well with others,” says Stephanie Jacobson, director of youth productions at The Rose.
Williams spends most of her free time at The Rose. She’s been in 15 productions there, including five Teens ’N Theater shows, one mainstage production, and nine productions through camps and classes. For the past three years, she has acted in the Broken Mirror production, a Teens ’N Theater show. This year’s show runs April 7-10.
Last year’s theme was “Games We Play,” and Morgan acted in a skit called “Hungry, Hungry Hippos.” Four actors wore hippopotamus costumes and performed a skit about eating disorders.
The experience begins by the girls coming together to write the skits. Once rehearsals begin, the young women talk about how others perceive these issues related to teenage girls.
“We’re reaching out to the community as a whole through Broken Mirror,” Williams said. “Specifically for teenage girls because sometimes we’re under-represented in the media.”
This compassion for others comes through often. She counts among her favorite roles that of “Becky” in the play Zinc, the Myth, the Legend, the Zebra. “Zinc” is an imaginary zebra who helps 10-year-old Becky cope with her terminal cancer.
“I think it was one of my favorite roles because leukemia is such a horrible disease,” Williams said.
As she has come through the ranks from camps and classes to youth productions, she says her patience has definitely grown. Jacobson says like any teenager, she’s grown in another important way.
“She’s so much more confident in asking upfront for what she wants, and defining herself a bit more.”
And her acting skills have grown, causing her to land a mainstage role last year as a lamb in Charlotte’s Web.
Her enthusiasm for theater led Jacobson to approach Williams last spring about becoming an intern. Williams said yes, eventually.
“She does not like to say yes to anything until she’s absolutely sure, which is kind of the opposite of most teenagers,” Jacobson says. “She is so thoughtful in considering all of the time constraints and all of the expectations.”
As an intern, Williams continues to act, writes plays and skits, and helps with technical work. She helped teach the class “A Pallet of Possibilities.” She also works some with marketing, and she hopes to do more.
“The theater depends a lot on what the community thinks about it,” Williams says. “It’s good to remind people of that.”
The high school senior wants to attend UNO next fall. Her proposed major? Theater, of course, along with creative writing. She doesn’t have dreams of making it big in New York City—she’s happy to be working in Omaha.
And she gives due credit to The Rose for starting her down this path.
“It’s an empowering place. It’s a safe community.” Encounter
Visit rosetheater.org to learn more.