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.
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Recommended by

  • Wolfgang Jones:
    19 Jan. 2024
    Enjoyed everything from the title to the ending. Thoroughly impressed by Burbano's handling of loss, mortality, intelligence, and connection. Highly, highly recommended.
  • Dave Osmundsen:
    21 May. 2023
    “Sapience” is a boundlessly ambitious and sharply observed play about the intersections of science, neurodiversity, and the shortcomings of human communication. Burbano creates a compelling protagonist in Elsa, an Autistic primatologist whose struggles to teach an orangutan English are mirrored with her cousin Miri, whose non-speaking Autistic son also struggles to communicate. The final 35 pages are one gut punch after the next, as the metaphorical jungle Elsa creates for herself gradually overtakes the stage—a great challenge for designers. Finally, “Normal is a place to hide” may be one of my favorite lines in a contemporary play.
  • Sarah Tuft:
    9 Mar. 2022
    With the deft touch of an expert dramatist, Burbano explores questions of who we are and what makes us human in a journey that’s both wrenching and compassionate but always entertaining. SAPIENCE offers an empathetic look into the immigrant experience, the experience of being neurodivergent, the experience of facing one's mortality, and through Wookie, the experience of never being understood - one every human person knows all too well. Mostly, this beautiful play is about love…

Character Information

  • Elsa
    A primatologist. Latinx. On the neuronormative end of the autism spectrum.
  • Wookie
    Any female/femme-identifying
    An orangutan. Probably a sweet young redheaded woman.
  • Miri
    Elsa's cousin. A Latinx immigrant. Smart, fun and astute. Her hair is dyed in rainbow colors. Bilingual Spanish/English. 30's
  • AJ
    12-14. A young teen on the autism spectrum. Non verbal except with Wookie M or F
  • Jason
    A primatologist. Boyish Gen-Xer. Charming.

Development History

Production History

  • Professional
    MOXIE Theatre