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February 6, 2009
Former Phantom performs in Davis

Franc D'Ambrosio, the Broadway performer best known for his long-running role as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, appears in Davis tonight at a fundraiser for the fledgling Sense Theatre, a nonprofit that hopes to unlock the future for local autistic children through what its organizers call "theatrical intervention."

Co-founded by UC Davis MIND Institute neuropsychologist Blythe Corbett and board member Christine Totah, the Sense Theatre aims to use performance as a way to teach the social skills, movement and communication that autistic children characteristically lack.

"We're just beginning the process," says Corbett, a former performer herself. "Our formal auditions will be in March for Disney's Jungle Book. We'll have 10 children with autism co-cast with typically developing peers. They'll work on the same role together."

Future productions will include shows of different lengths and genres, she says. As a researcher, she plans to assess the progress of the autistic children who participate.

"We'll collect neurological and biological data, because we want to be able to show that we're making a difference," she says. "We want to demonstrate tangible changes."

Tonight's event begins at 7 p.m. at the Davis Musical Theatre Company, 607 Pena Dr. in Davis. Tickets cost $50. For more information, go to

-- Anita Creamer

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