Theater production features cast of actors with special needs

Major Impact Theater is preparing to produce its seventh theater performance “Diamond in the Rough," a spin off of Aladdin. From left, Alison Benno as Iago, Amanda Stegall as Jafar, Philip Cobos as Aladdin, and Sara Palmer as Jasmine. Michele Lutes/The Signal
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Major Impact Theater is preparing to produce its seventh musical theater performance, “Diamond in the Rough,” an adaptation of a popular Disney animated classic.

The production is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Newhall Family Theatre, located on Walnut Street.

“It’s an adaptation of ‘Aladdin,’” said Shawnda Davis, director and co-founder of Major Impact Theater. “It’s a comedy and a musical. It’s not exactly like ‘Aladdin,’ but it parallels to it.”

The performance will feature a cast of characters, led by Philip Cobos as Aladdin, and a team of adult actors with special needs, including Sara Palmer as Jasmine, Amanda Stegall as Jafar and Alison Benno as Iago.

Philip Cobos, left and Sara Palmer star in Major Impact Theater’s production “Diamonds in the Rough.” Michele Lutes/The Signal

The process of writing the musical was a collaboration, Davis said. “Alison wrote it and then we helped assist. She was really interested in writing, so she wrote the script and set the foundation for it.”

Participants who do not want to act are able to help backstage, be ushers and help with set design.

“We have ushers and backstage help, if someone is to shy,” Davis said. “This year, we are going to have a new projector and special effects. It’s such a community of help. We have people from Special Olympics helping do the stage sets, props and backstage. We just are a family.”

During the performance there will be raffles, a snack bar and a few speeches, she said.

Companies and community members are able to donate and sponsor the upcoming play by visiting the nonprofit’s website.

“Chorus Line gave us a huge discount on our costumes,” Davis said.

The nonprofit buys the main character’s costumes and often creates the rest on their own, by going to Goodwill or putting together what they all have.

The actors are so committed, she said. “It’s amazing what comes when people want to help, out of the goodness of our hearts.”


Major Impact Theater was founded in 2014 by Jill Garson and Shawnda Davis.

It is a nonprofit theater group that parodies plays for performance by adults with disabilities in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“When we first started putting on plays, our goal is that just because you have special needs doesn’t mean you can’t,” Davis said. “There isn’t any limitations when it comes to special needs. Sometimes there is a stigma out there, which is now changing and is so beautiful, and were seeing it right in front of our eyes.”

The actors have true talent, she said. “It’s very professional.”

The nonprofit encourages the “Yes I can” attitude to all their actors.

“There is no, ‘Because the disability I can’t,’ and that’s the mission that we’re on,” Davis said. “Being involved in the community, not to be looked at as, ‘I have a disability,’ but to be blended just like everyone else — because we are all different.”

For more information on Major Impact Theater or to buy tickets, go to major

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