As an infant, Frank Stephens had a brief encounter with comedian Bob Hope at a celebrity golf tournament in Tulsa.
John Stephens believes his son, who has Down syndrome, might have picked up a thing or two from the comedic legend.
“We should’ve made his middle name Smithfield, because he was born a ham,” Stephens said. “He truly loves performing.”
Beginning Thursday, Frank Stephens, 29, will appear in the lead role of a new play, “Star Corps IV: The Search For Mind-Zap,” at Gunston Theatre. The play runs through March 24.
The play is a one-act science-fiction musical about the adventures of Capt. Morgan and his crew thwarting an alien attack. It will premiere along with another new production,“Oh My, An Invasion!,” a musical about aliens who steal an ancient artifact and the heroes who try to stop them.
Both plays were created by ArtStream, a nonprofit arts organization founded in 2005 that allows people with disabilities to express their creativity through acting, music and dance through a specially designed drama program.
Patricia Woolsey, executive director and co-founder of the organization, said the process of producing a play is a collaborative effort. She said the actors are involved from the early developmental stages until a script has been completed.
The process of idea to script to performance typically takes about six months.
“It’s a very daunting process. It’s exciting and scary at the same time,” Woolsey said. But the actors “help me with every component of it. They surprise me all the time by introducing new characters and new story themes.”
Stephens said his son spends a significant amount of time when he prepares for a role.
“Frank puts in hours and hours of doing lines with anyone he can corral at home. He’s not afraid of the work that you have to put in. He understands that you have to try,” he said.
Woolsey said the actors’ professionalism could give the audience a different take on people who have disabilities. Instead of noticing their disabilities, she said, viewers should sit back and enjoy their work.
“I want people to have fun,” she said.
Performances will be held at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday and at the same times March 22-24 at Gunston Theatre One, 2700 S. Lang St. in Arlington. Tickets, which are $10 ($5 for students and children), can be purchased at the door or online at www.art-stream.org. For information, call 301-565-4567.