Asian Heroine Tackles Gender Bullying and Air Pollution in New Musical

‘Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies’ returns to UCR this month with new celebrity talent and workshops

This year’s revival features musical contributions by composer and actor Jacqueline Emerson, best known for her role as Fox Face in “The Hunger Games.”

After a sold-out, two-night showcase in 2017, it was only a matter of time before the theater adaptation of children’s book ‘Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies’ returned to UCR.

The musical, set for performances on May 25-26, follows Ten Ten, a girl rejected by her father for not conforming to societal gender norms as she finds her voice and concurrently saves the skies. A unique collaboration of theater professionals and environmental scientists has laid the framework for the showcase, aiming to find an innovative platform to address gender-based bullying and air pollution.

This year’s revival has attracted some additional talent along the way, including a partnership with composer and actor Jacqueline Emerson, best known for her role as Fox Face in “The Hunger Games.”

“Our book writer, Maggie Herskowitz, has had a long-time friendship with Jacqueline Emerson,” said Setsu Shigematsu, original story creator and associate professor in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies. “They have kept up with each other’s creative journeys as well, and it has been great to find Jacqueline Emerson to be such a great fit with the aesthetic and goals of the show.”

Another new face is musical arranger Lee Huff, an L.A.-based composer who recently worked on “Stranger Things: A Musical Tribute.”

Theater Director Chari Arespacochaga will once again lead the adaptation, incorporating changes from the creative team as well as solicited feedback from last year’s audience. The 2017 iteration, which was intended to test the script and the music, included a rare opportunity for audience input after the show. The feedback was both positive and constructive, Arespacochaga said, adding that the revival is intended to improve and finalize the material before licensing it to community theaters and schools.

Saturday’s matinee will be followed by a pair of interactive, educational workshops led by Tamara Ho, associate professor of gender studies, and Winter Lawson, the show’s associate director. LGBT Resource Center staff will also lead the workshops with air pollution experts Francesca Hopkins and Ying-Hsuan Lin, both assistant professors of environmental science at UCR.

In these interactive workshops, participants will learn about LGBTQ identity, strategies to cope with gender-based bullying, and the effects of air pollution. This unique blend of theatrical arts and scientific knowledge makes “Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies” an innovative educational tool to approach the topics of sustainability and gender justice, according to production staff.

Produced by the Guardian Princess Alliance, the showcase features an all Asian American cast, filling a void of Asian American representation in theater, according to Donatella Galella, an assistant professor of theater. She noted that a study by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition found that only 2 percent of roles on and off Broadway between 2006-11 went to Asian Americans.

“In California, people of Asian descent make up 11 percent of the state, so they are vastly underrepresented,” Galella said.

Available shows are Saturday, May 26, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with Friday evening’s performance sold out. Saturday’s matinee is followed by a free workshop. All shows are free and open to the public.

Tickets can be reserved here.

More information can be found here.


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