The dream of being on stage has helped Justyce Taylor through some of her toughest days.
The Learmonth 10-year-old was critically injured when she was hit by a car on the Sunraysia Highway near her home in June, not long after she won the role of a wolf in the Miners Rest Primary School production of Beauty and the Beast JR.
When she woke up in the Royal Children’s Hospital, mum Shirlene Laurie said one of Justyce’s most pressing concerns was whether she could still be part of the production.
“One of the first things when she got to the stage where she could talk … she asked if she could still do the production because she was so stoked about getting to be a wolf,” Ms Laurie said.
The drive to perform has helped Justyce endure painful rehabilitation and physical therapy to recover from skull fractures, an acquired brain injury, facial palsy, broken shoulder blades, a broken right upper arm, fractured and degloved right hand, two cracked ribs, punctured lung, lacerated liver, soft tissue damage to her right leg, and road damage to her left leg, foot and heel.
“Getting to be a wolf is one thing that has had a really big impact … and something to keep her positive especially during physical therapy. Quite often I told her she had to crawl to be a wolf so she had to do physio to get her arm strong,” Ms Laurie said.
Justyce is back in grade four at Miners Rest Primary School, attending three times a week for two hours, and while most of her physical injuries are healing she still has hearing loss and facial palsy, which will require more surgery next month.
Justyce will join about 300 fellow Miners Rest pupils on stage at the Wendouree Performing Arts Centre next week for two performances of Beauty and the Beast JR.
To ease the pressure on Ms Laurie, who until last week had been making twice weekly visits to the Royal Children’s Hospital with Justyce, the school sorted her costume and everything she would need for her role.
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Performing arts teacher Megan Manson said year five and six pupils auditioned for the main cast, with year three and four children including Justyce cast as understudies to support and prepare for their turn in the lead roles in future years.
“Justyce is that type of creative, artsy child who always really excels in visual arts, performance art and music,” Ms Manson said.
“She auditioned for that specialty role and it’s really fantastic she’s recovered to a point where she can be back and involved and integrated and it’s great to engage her back in to the production.
Ms Manson said the first thing Justyce asked when she was her was if she would still be a wolf.
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“I told her rain, hail or shine you will be on that stage. I said I’d push her around in a wheelchair if I had to – she was not missing out.”
Ms Manson said the production had garnered wide support from the whole Miners Rest community with families and extended families helping create the sets, costumes and everything else needed for the production.
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