Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies dares to push the boundaries of musical theater for audiences of all ages. Ten Ten is a coming of age story of girl who is bullied and rejected by her father because she does not conform to the gender norms of her society. Original story creator, Associate Professor Setsu Shigematsu, has collaborated with theater professionals and environmental scientists to create an innovative musical showcase that addresses gender-based bullying and air pollution. Theater director, Chari Arespacochaga, is leading the adaptation from its original children’s book form into a live theater musical. In a recent interview regarding the developmental process of creating the musical adaptation of the book, Chari said,“We agreed that adapting the books to theater was a great opportunity to showcase different theater traditions from all over the world, and to champion the values of caring for our planet and working together across cultures. We started with a devising workshop and then we were joined by book writer and lyricist, Maggie Herskowitz and composer, Jillie Mae Eddy, who are based in NYC. Their work has stayed faithful to the spirit of the Ten Ten story and yet has expanded it into this musical world that we are sharing with everyone through this showcase.”
Produced by Model Minority Theatre Troupe with the Guardian Princess Alliance (a Division of S.T.R.O.N.G. Edutainment), the showcase features an all Asian-American cast. Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies attempts to fill the void of Asian/American representation in theater. Professor Donatella Galella, an expert in Asian American theater states, “ As for theatre, the Asian American Performers Action Coalition studied the distribution of roles on and off-Broadway from 2006-2011, and they discovered that only 2% of roles went to Asian/Americans. In California, people of Asian descent make up 11% of the state, so they are vastly under-represented.” This makes Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies an important debut not just for theater as a whole, but for an underrepresented community. The collaborators believe that this showcase will not only bring more people to the theater, but will also educate them about the negative health effects of air pollution. Assistant Professor Ying-Husan Lin, an expert on human health and the impact of air pollution, stresses the importance of creating greater awareness of air pollution, stating “The World Health Organization estimates that in 2012, there were 3.7 million deaths attributable to outdoor pollution worldwide.”In addition to the showcase performance, there will also be an interactive display in front of the theatre where participants can learn about the effects of air pollution. This unique blend of theatrical arts and scientific knowledge at the event makes Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies a must-see for all ages. The event takes place on May 26-27 from 7:00PM-9:00PM at the University of California, Riverside in Humanities 411.
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