ASHLAND, Ore. -- "Hairspray" is opening at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this weekend, featuring four students with special needs.
Luke Hogan Laurenson, an 8th grader at Ashland Middle School, is one of those actors. According to the show's director, he was the inspiration behind this show. Luke has cerebral palsy, but still dances and sings as part of the show's ensemble.
Show director Christopher Liam Moore says having these students involved in "Hairspray" was no accident.
"I love the themes of [the show]," Moore said. "I love what it has to say about the world -- about the world being a more inclusive place."
Typing out a message on his iPad that he uses to communicate, Luke says his favorite part about rehearsals is "everything."
"It's beautiful to see that passion for him," Luke's mother, Jane, said. "I don't know if they're seeing his will of steel; I see it in his determination to be at every performance."
She adds Luke is doing better in school since starting to work with OSF, explaining Luke knows that if his homework doesn't get finished, he can't go to OSF rehearsal.
She adds she was thrilled when she first heard about the production, and that it's meaningful to see Luke and the other students living out their dreams.
"It was just incredible," Jane said. "It was like everything we had ever hoped for but never imagined was possible."
The show opens this weekend. The other students participating in the show are Zahra Detweiler, Walker, Hill, and Oriana Rochlen.