Walnut’s Maine attraction appeals to a new audience

Drama class is providing their first-ever sensory-friendly performance of their fall play, “Almost, Maine,” Saturday, Nov. 2. 

Dean of Special Education and Visual and Fine Arts Marta Dibell introduced the idea to create the sensory-friendly experience. During the play, 15 American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters from Mount San Antonio College will stand behind each performer and sign his or her character’s speech. Interpreters will translate the script word-for-word to allow hard-of-hearing or deaf students to fully understand the play. 

“[Mrs. Dibell and I] agreed that it was a necessary component for inclusion on our campus [and] to understand that we have students [whose] needs aren’t being met with art exposure,” Drama teacher and director Mathew Migliorini said.

The Stagecraft crew implemented subdued purple and green lights to resemble the Northern Lights during the transitions and dark scenes in “Almost, Maine.” Sound effects will also be lowered in volume to create a more relaxed ambience. 

“I love our Northern Lights look. It’s important because [this] is going to give [the sensory-friendly play] a smooth, eased pace. Instead of adding sudden aspects, it will be one [continuous] movement of a show,” Stagecraft crew member junior Jacky Fernandez said. 

To engage audience members with special needs, members of Best Buddies will pair up with them during the play. Peer buddies will also provide squishy or fidget toys in the lobby of the theater to accommodate anyone who might have incapabilities with noise or struggles with sitting for a prolonged time. 

“[We’re] trying to get all the buddies involved on campus and assimilating them into the rest of the student body,” Best Buddies president junior Isabel Caluya said. “It’ll help them be more open and feel more included on campus because most of the time, people don’t know that there are people with special needs [on] campus. We’re trying to let them have a complete high school experience; we want everyone to be involved in everything.”

Migliorini encourages students in the play to focus on the production rather than the crowd to ensure that the relaxed environment will not diminish its quality. 

“Professional big plays and musicals don’t do this kind of stuff, so I think it’s a good opportunity for them to be able to experience something like this,” actor sophomore Max Yen said. “Plays are a very big thing when it comes to culture, and it’s very important for someone to experience [it] at least once in their lifetime. With the sensory friendly performance, we’re able to appeal to a much wider audience and allow them to enjoy the experience.”

“Almost, Maine” comprises of eight stories that explore the concept of love. Each scene is set in the same city, but display separate plots and characters.

“I love the play — it’s beautifully written; it’s magical, whimsical, adorable and heartbreaking at times. The play is inclusive, as it’s about love and all different shapes, sizes and forms of love. It was just a perfect match for a sensory-friendly production,” Migliorini said. “If it’s an enjoyable experience for them, I hope it empowers them [to] not only try and go see theater, but maybe even participate in theater in the future. It’s important to understand that art, especially theater, is for everyone.”

By Emily Cao, Staff writer
Photos by Tristan Gonzalez and Isaac Le



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