The Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad, along with theater and cinema stars, presents a uniquely inclusive show in Sochi

As part of the "Class Mira" national children’s story initiative the premiere of a unique show, called "Who am I?", was held on October 27th at the Sochi Winter Theater. Along with their able-bodied peers and children from well-to-do families, teens with disabilities and from children's homes participated in the creation of the play. The "Class Mira" contest, the final of which was held in Olympic host city Sochi from October 14th to October 28th, continued the series of cultural events aimed at the active integration of people with disabilities into society.

Leading Russian theater and cinema actors performed in the play, including: Maria Golubkina, Ekaterina Volkova, Pavel Barshak, Olga Lapshina, Artur Smolyaninov and Andrei Merzlikin.

To participate in the contest, entrants had to create a story beginning with the words "Once upon a time...", and a poem that could become a basis for the song. More than 200 applications were received for the contest. A professional jury nominated 15 works for the final shortlist. Then all these works were united in one unique show, called "Who am I?"

On October 14th, the finalists gathered in Sochi, where over the course of two weeks they worked on the creation of the musical show with leading playwrights, composers, directors, musicians, actors and artists. During the final stage, the finalists participated in master classes and creative labs with the help of playwrights, composers, actors, musicians and artists. The young people learnt about the foundations of scenography and musical production, studied stage speech, dance and even created theater masks. They also participated in a celebration marking the 500 days to go until the Paralympic Games, where they performed a song written by one of the contest's finalists, Valeria Demidova.

This year's project was a little bit different from last year's: whereas last year the entrants performed their own plays, this time the same play was performed by everyone; and where the "Class Mira - 2011" had focused on helping to integrate children with disabilities into society, in 2012 children from all kinds of different social backgrounds were involved: youngsters from children's homes alongside children from well-off families, children with disabilities working with able-bodied children.

Maria Popova, the author and organizer of the competition, remarked:

"The aim of the contest, first and foremost, is to draw attention to the problems of teenagers facing difficult circumstances in life. This year we invited an extremely wide range of children: children with disabilities and able-bodied kids, children who live with their parents and children who live in children's homes. We want to show people that talent can, and must, be developed, even in the most difficult circumstances life can throw at us; and that talent doesn't have anything to do with "disabilities" - and our contest fully reflects that."

The actor Andrei Merzlikin said:

"It's not as easy as you might think to be a member of society, a citizen. Because behind these words lies a sense of responsibility and, most important of all, an implication of opportunities open to everyone. So I'm really glad there's a project like "Class Mira", which enables people to fulfill themselves, both within society, and on a personal level. This project is enabling us to integrate into society not just children, but also ordinary citizens, who, as our experience from past projects has shown us, benefit hugely from a chance to explore creatively their circumstances and value systems."

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