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Moxie Theatre hosts world premiere of Diana Burbano's 'Sapience'

Nancy Ross as Wookie and Mariel León as Elsa in the world premiere of Diana Burbano's "Sapience" at Moxie Theatre.
Moxie Theatre
Nancy Ross as Wookie and Mariel León as Elsa in the world premiere of Diana Burbano's "Sapience" at Moxie Theatre.

A new play explores neurodiversity and offers a sensory friendly production

Moxie Theater's is staging the world premiere of Diana Bubano's play "Sapience" next month. It focuses on neurodiversity and offers a sensory friendly production.

If you are curious what that means then Samantha Ginn can explain.

"Neurodiversity means anyone with a neurological difference who thinks differently in their brain and who is not defined as neurotypical. So that could be someone on the autism spectrum or someone who is dyslexic, and this play focuses on two actors who are on the autism spectrum," Ginn said.


Ginn serves as the inclusion specialist for the show. She has been working with people with disabilities for 20 years and she is an actress, writer and director in her own right.

"For the past ten years, I've been working with actors with disabilities and putting on sensory friendly shows and doing a lot of neurodiverse programming," she explained. "And so this time around at Moxie, they brought me in to make sure that the show is indeed sensory friendly and accessible to those who may avoid going to the theater because of those loud noises and because maybe they need a sensory break to regulate. And so we're showing audience members what would that look like."

The play is not only designed for those who need a sensory friendly environment but also as a means of asking audiences to show compassion for neurodiverse people who may need to take a break during a performance.

So Ginn said her job is "to make sure that space is accessible to those and also to support some of the neurodiverse cast members, to make sure they feel regulated and supported."

For director and actress Vanessa Duron that meant "incorporating things like if there's a sound that we think it's too jarring, there will be a queue light that will prompt someone to put on headphones if they need to or walk out of the theater if they need to."


"We're creating a safe space for people to walk out of the theater and take a breather if they need one," Duron said. "We've dialed back the lighting to make sure that there's no, like, strobe lights or anything that's too flashy. We've taken down a notch on our voices, so we're not screaming on stage."

"There's so much," Duron said. "There's a lot of learning experiences in the lobby when you first walk in, audience members are allowed to leave the theater if they need some alone time. So just be mindful of the needs that need to be met in our audience members."

Burbano's play looks to Elsa, a Latinx Primatologist who harbors a secret. She’s now working with an orangutan named Wookie and she hopes to train Wookie to speak a human language. Then her teenage nephew, who is on the Autism spectrum, develops a relationship with Wookie,

"It's such an amazing play," Duron said. "It's about communication. It's about how we strive to feel heard, to feel seen, how we socialize with each other. It's about understanding and compassion."

Ginn added: "The orangutan ties directly to how people sometimes on the spectrum communicate in different ways, but that doesn't mean that they're not communicating correctly. But in our society, we have created these norms of this is what communication looks like, and this is how you communicate. And sometimes I find working in the autism community that our society is trying to change the way someone communicates to fit the social norm. And that's where I find that people on the spectrum can get frustrated because they're just communicating in a different way, but they're not being totally heard. So I think it's symbolic of sometimes the challenges that people in the autism community face when they feel like they are expressing just in a different way."

Following each performance, audiences will be invited to participate in an educational workshop designed in close collaboration with "Sapience" production partners at Autism Society San Diego.

"Sapience" now opens on Feb. 3 and runs through Feb. 20. Moxie Theatre, located at 6663 El Cajon Blvd Ste. N, requires proof of vaccination, masks, and is reducing audience capacity to fifty percent for this production.

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This event is in the past.
Thursday, February 3, 2022 at 2 PM
Ongoing until February 20, 2022
Moxie Theatre
$22 – $44
NOTE: This production has been postponed until Feb. 3, 2022. Closing date will still be Feb. 20.Preview: Thursday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.Opening night: Friday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m.Streaming dates: Saturday, Feb. 12 at 1 p.m.Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.Saturday, Feb. 19 at 1 p.m.Streaming tickets are $37 per household and are available hereFrom the theater:Moxie Theatre and TuYo Theatre in partnership with the Autism Society San Diego present the world premiere of SAPIENCE by Diana Burbano. About the play —Elsa is a primatologist with a secret that’s easier to bear when she’s at work with Wookie, the orangutan she’s training to speak. Her worlds collide when her nephew AJ, a teenager who is nonverbal and on the autism spectrum, forms a relationship with Wookie. Sapience is a ground-breaking and imaginative new play about how we communicate and seek to be understood. Runs through February 20 on the following schedule:Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.Sunday at 2 p.m. Get tickets here!Admission from $22 - $44All performances are sensory-friendly. An ASL performance will take place Feb. 13 at 2 p.m.For more information, please visit