Meryl Streep once said, “Acting is not about being different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.” Self-discovery and confidence building are at the heart of Friends Life Community’s Performing Arts Program. Under the direction of performing arts specialist Sarah Edwards, the Friends, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, develop a sense of who they are and have fun doing it.

Edwards has a Master’s Degree in Drama Therapy and is a Registered Drama Therapist under The North American Drama Therapy Association. She is one of only three Registered Drama Therapists in the state of Tennessee. It is this training and unique background that allows Edwards to facilitate transformational levels of personal growth with the Friends through performing arts.

Tandem Troupe, the Friends Life Community traveling acting ensemble, is just one of the projects of the Performing Arts Department at Friends Life that allows the Friends to personally grow. With Edwards directing, a group of three Nashville improv actors perform alongside the Friends in an original play “The Mystery at the Mansion” that the Friends created, wrote, and will star in. According to Molly Breen, one of the professional improv actors, “Working with Tandem Troupe has been a joyous experience for me. These creative and dedicated actors consistently demonstrate how theatre is for everyone! I have no doubt that ‘The Mystery at the Mansion’ will be my personal theatrical highlight for 2019.”

The current play is much more than just a performance. “Performances provide ownership of something meaningful that is full of integrity, dignity, and sophistication. Most importantly, the impact to the Friends is truly life-changing,” says Edwards.

Alfred, one of the Friends, has always been a man full of ideas, loud energy, accents, and hilarious jokes. He found a place to belong in theatre – a place that encourages his unique ideas, a place that allows him to use his voice and body to create entertaining moments on stage, and a place where he has learned to listen to people around him and develop self-confidence. This success in the performing arts led to Alfred securing a job recently at Edley’s BBQ, a FLC Community Partner, where on his first day he introduced himself proudly to his new co-workers as an “actor” telling them all about the most recent production. For Alfred, and the other performers, the arts serve as a vehicle, to breaking down barriers, tearing down stigmas, and inviting the community to see their talents, and begin meaningful relationships with those around them.

The Friends will perform shows throughout the spring for schools, corporations, and the general public, and are always willing to organize special performances. To find out more about Tandem Troupe show dates, please visit our Events Calendar. To schedule a performance please contact Sarah Edwards, at