To many children, stories of magic, princesses and faraway lands are an important part of childhood. Thanks to an interdepartmental collaboration between three UC Riverside CHASS Departments, the Gluck Fellows Program and the Esther Hays Family Concerts, these stories of magic, princesses and faraway lands will be brought to the stage in a one-hour special production of the original story Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies.
“It’s a family concert, so that is very important,” said Christine Leapman, Assistant Director of the Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts. “We’re hoping that families will enjoy coming out for a bit of culture, and Princess Ten Ten is a gender nonconforming princess who is bullied for being herself, so we’re hoping that will be able to add towards affirming the variety of people that we have here. It also informs children about air pollution, and how everybody can play a part in improving it, even in a small way, even a child.”
Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies is the fourth installment of the Guardian Princess book series created by Media and Cultural Studies Professor Setsu Shigematsu. The story brings real-life issues to children in a comprehensive musical performance, and centers around genderfluid Princess Ten Ten and her struggles with air pollution, acceptance/rejection and family. The story teaches children about race, gender, ethnicity, family and environmental impact, and has an equally diverse cast and orchestral arrangement.
"It demonstrates the goodwill of those on the creative team and those who spend hours and hours laboring to collaborate to share these stories," Shigematsu said. “With magnificent music and art, it uplifts all and brings us together across differences to protect people and the planet for future generations, rather than be motivated by profit or individualist opportunism.”
In collaboration with the University Orchestra and University Theatre, Shigematsu’s story will be brought to life with the crucial help of Music Lecturer Dr. Ruth Charloff, Professor Tim Labor of the Media and Cultural Studies and Music departments, Music graduate student Christiaan Clark, Creative Development Director Chari Arespacochaga, and student director Winter Lawson. Winter understands firsthand the experiences of the trans community, and has been a part of the staff at the LGBTQ Resource center. Other important contributions include the assistance of the Gluck Fellows Program and the Esther Hays Family Concerts, arrangements by Lee Huff, and music and lyrics by former Hunger Games actress and composer Jacqueline Emerson.
“The story itself is already sweeping,” Labor said. “Adding the orchestra, which is something that implies sweeping, it’s a very natural thing. I think the script is very good, and the revision of the script is excellent. Hopefully when you hear the combination of the orchestra and this magical story that requires an imagination, it’s a very natural combination.”
The show has been performed on-campus three times before and has been touring local schools, but the upcoming performance will be the first show with a live orchestra. Graduate student Christiaan Clark and Labor undertook the momentous task of transcribing the previously entirely digital soundtrack into orchestral pieces to be performed by the UCR Orchestra, and Labor composed two original orchestral numbers for the performance, including a new overture.
“As arranger and orchestral transcriber for the upcoming performance of Princess Ten Ten, I explored the preexisting compositions and orchestrations done by Jackie Emerson and Lee Huff,” said Clark. “I primarily spent time working with Ruth Charloff and Tim Labor, making sure that my arrangements and transcriptions did not differ too greatly from the original source material while still allowing the orchestra to be highlighted at key moments.”
Charloff will conduct the UCR Orchestra and is a positive role model for aspiring young female musicians. Women orchestral conductors number much fewer than their male counterparts. Charloff hopes to bring to life the diverse performance, and highlight the grandeur of the musical’s inclusive message through an equally grand musical score.
“Because of the presence of the orchestra, there are places for orchestral splendor that were added to the show,” Charloff said. “The whole scope of things has become much grander, and more epic.”
The production has taken most of the academic year to prepare and will be performed Sunday, April 14, at 3 pm in the University Theater. The hour-long performance will be free and open to the public, with free parking in Lot 6. Tickets will be first-come, first-served, and are required for entrance.