Canajoharie student cast includes sight-impaired actress

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CANAJOHARIE – High school senior Jayden Bentz showed NewsChannel 13 around the set of the musical Mamma Mia at school.

She is sight-impaired. While she has performed in different shows, she remembers she was hesitant at first.

“I was like, I don’t know if I can do this,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Yes, you can.’ If you do choir, you can do this.”

Her younger sister, Willow Burke, is also a performer and helps to guide.

“She makes sure that I get on and get off the stage safely,” Jayden said.

“I help her get around because if it’s a close scene, and we’re done with the scene, the lights will go out and it goes all dark. I’ll have to help her off stage, on stage, and stuff like that,” said Willow.

Jayden lights up when she talks about singing.

“There are no bullies at Drama Club. They are all nice to her, so I’m happy,” said her sister, Willow.

Jayden says she likes it because she can express herself. It’s about confidence and connection.

“And that ability to get that social connection allows her to feel more comfortable in our environment and more comfortable in our school district, and it’s something she can express herself in and feel really comfortable being part of,” School Superintendent Dr. Nick Fitzgerald said.

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Mamma Mia has performances this weekend. It’s a time for each individual to shine.

Jayden would tell others to take a chance.

“Maybe try it a little bit and then see what you can do,” she said.

The school wants to provide every student with the chance to do everything.

“She absolutely loves it and when you have any conversation with her at all about musicals, about plays, she — one, takes it very personal which is great because it means a lot to her,” said Dr. Fitzgerald. “And two, she’ll tell you everything about it, and three, she’ll start singing a lot because of how proud she is of being a part of it.”