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Students of every ability present a 'site-specific' Disney show

In Southeast San Diego, it’s opening night for the musical production of a Disney favorite. This show is performed in and around a school campus with a cast that includes some students who are differently abled. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez takes us there.

Friday was opening night for the live production of a Disney favorite.

“Disney Descendants: The Musical” is produced by Chula Vista's Maraya Performing Arts school this weekend through March 14. The show is being performed on the campus of KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy in Southeast San Diego.

Maraya Performing Arts is a program known for its “site-specific” productions and inclusion of a diverse community of young performers.


"Site-specific means that we are taking it outside of a traditional theatre and we are using the elements of the site to create the scenery for the show,” said Anjanette Maraya-Ramey, the show’s director and choreographer.

The audience moves with the actors from location to location inside and out of the school.

The Disney musical is a collaboration with KIPP Adelante, a tuition-free charter that opened about a year ago at its new Southeast San Diego location. As a public charter, there is an extended school day, allowing students more time for study and extracurricular activities. Some KIPP students are part of the production.

“We know this is a partnership working with our students and our families. We also need the support of extracurriculars in the community,' school leader Roxanne Cowperthwaite said. "So this is something we hope to continue for many years to come.”

M.G. Perez
Julian Garcia, 12, rehearses a dance in the production of Disney's "Descendants The Musical" on the campus of KIPP Adelante Preparatory School, San Diego, March 4, 2022.

Maraya Performing Arts company has a program with classes for children who are neuro-different individuals and some on the autism spectrum.

Wilmer Gange and his wife Anne are parents to Eddie and his younger brother A.J., who is already a veteran of musical theater at the age of 12.

A.J. insisted his older brother living with autism audition with him for the "Descendants" musical. They both were cast. The family is celebrating their son Eddie’s stage debut.

“When he is able to defy expectations and do things that neuro-typical kids can do it’s very exciting and make us very happy to see,” Wilmer Gange said.

M.G. Perez
Sydney Hagler, 15, and Ava Mendoza, 14, play Maleficent and Mal, in Disney's "Descendants The Musical" produced by Maraya Performing Arts on the campus of KIPP Adelante Preparatory School, San Diego, CA, March 4, 2022

"They’re learning teamwork, " Maraya-Ramey said, "They’re learning responsibility. They are becoming more self-sufficient and more compassionate."

The musical includes a cast of 23 performers who take the audience through 18 different on-site scenes.

"Disney Descendants: The Musical" on the KIPP campus runs this weekend and next through March 13. For tickets and COVID-19 protocols and protections go to