Take a famous tale by Hans Christian Andersen, add historical research and humor, and you have a timeless story that still resonates today. This adaptation is set in eighteenth century China, where two young princes must compete to be the next Emperor. It will take nothing less than bravery, empathy, and a magical bird to teach them the meaning of leadership. MainStreet Theatre Company is thrilled to be producing the West Coast premiere! For ages 6+
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About the Artists:
The Emperor’s Nightingale
By Damon Chua
Directed by Tim Dang
Choreography by Tom Tsai
Scenic Design: Tesshi Nakagawa
Costume Design: Jojo Siu
Lighting Design: Brian Gale
Original Music and Sound Design: Howard Ho
Prop Design: Akeime Mitterlehner
Scott Keiji Takeda
About The Play
What does it mean to be a good leader?
Damon Chua’s adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story tries to answer this question by pitting two brothers against each other in a competition to learn as much as they can about their kingdom. The stakes are high - the winner will be chosen as the new ruler. Prince Bao is helped along the way by a wise, talking bird, the Nightingale, who wants the rulers to do something about the hardship and struggles of the people. Prince Hongshi relies on biased reports from a conniving minister and the Italians who are surveying the land for their own purposes, for his information.
For much of the story, neither brother thinks it’s important to see what’s going on in the kingdom with their own eyes, and the audience will see the Princes learn their lessons as the story progresses. Instead of listening to the Nightingale, Prince Bao is mesmerized by a “magic box” that tells him stories, which turn out to be a smoke screen set up by Minister Wu and Hongshi to distract him. When he realizes that the Nightingale was right all along, Prince Bao not only apologizes, but goes out into the world and sees the suffering of his people. He also comes to understands that being a good leader includes listening, as well as leading by example. He finally does the right thing and works side by side with the people to help save the Kingdom. When Bao is chosen by the Emperor to succeed him, Prince Hongshi, we hope, finally learns that cheating and taking short-cuts will not make him a winner.
The adaptation is set in China during the Qing Dynasty, and Prince Bao is based on the prince who would one day become the Qianlong Emperor, one of the greatest rulers of Imperial China. The story includes classical Chinese art forms, in the form of calligraphy, music, poetry, and dance, and is also funny! The 6 actors play multiple roles, including a pair of gossipy Pandas and a very hungry tiger.
MainStreet’s production, with the blessing of the author, is adding a bit of modernity to the proceedings, with a nod to modern hip-hop culture mashed into the classical 18th Century Chinese art forms. The script’s modern language and references lend themselves well to this idea, making it accessible for today’s hip young audiences!
When choosing to do this play in our season, we were surprised to learn that of the many adaptations of Anderson’s tale that exist, this is the first time an Asian playwright had been commissioned to write one. The script also calls for “color-conscious” casting, which means the entire cast is comprised of actors with Asian or Pacific Islander heritage. MainStreet is honored to be doing the West Coast premiere with such a fabulous creative team and cast, and to do their part in letting Asian American children see themselves represented on stage.