Photo Flash: First Look at 'The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go!' at CTC
Children's Theatre Company (CTC) recently launched their 2013-2014 season which includes the world premiere of The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go! by Lloyd Suh. The play is co-produced by the Drama Desk and Obie Award-winning, Ma-Yi Theater Company after four years of collaboration. The process demanded a commitment by two theatres to produce a wildly inventive interplanetary odyssey complete with space creatures and levitating rocks. Ma-Yi's Artistic Director Ralph Pena directs the production this October on CTC's Cargill Stage before taking the show to New York. BroadwayWorld has a first look at the cast in action below!
CTC Artistic Director Peter Brosius and Director of New Play Development Elissa Adams are always looking for renowned artists to develop new work for young audiences. When Brosius saw The Romance of Magno Rubio by Lonnie Carter he was immediately smitten with the Ma-Yi Theater. Brosius recalls, "I just thought it was a brilliant production: the direction, design, actors, how the script played, and I knew this was a special theatre with terrific leadership." He was particularly interested in their Asian-American Writers Lab. Ma-Yi Artistic Director Ralph Pen?a is fully supportive of the Asian American voice, creating what Brosius calls "an extraordinarily wide and inventive aesthetic." A partnership between CTC and Ma-Yi seemed like an ideal choice for both companies. CTC would get to premiere a new play by one of the nation's most celebrated new playwrights and Ma-Yi would have an original show that their dedicated audiences could enjoy with their families.
Peter Brosius met with Ma-Yi Artistic Director Ralph Pen?a who recommended Writers Lab playwright Lloyd Suh whose plays have been published and produced worldwide. Brosius explains, "I was knocked out by his work. It's deeply human, wonderfully inventive, and hugely funny." Ralph Pen?a remembers, "Lloyd had been itching to write a space adventure story." The process began to develop an original play to premiere at Children's Theatre Company. The National Endowment for the Arts supported Suh developing the script through Arena Stage's highly coveted New Play Development program in 2009.
Suh was given permission to unabashedly unleash his imagination. The show will feature spectacle, visual effects, and some stage magic yet to be discovered. It will also wrestle with the very real adolescent feeling of being an outsider. The characters Violet and Bruce emerged as siblings with superpowers who did not fit in amongst the other humans in their community. Elissa Adams recalls, "Conversations around the early drafts of the play included discussions of identity, and Lloyd thought it was most interesting to show how identity get expressed in a science-fiction genre-where being 'different' means having super powers no one else has, and where feeling 'displaced' means you're beamed to a strange planet in outer space."
The play is a co-commission as well as a co-production, with workshops taking place at both theatres thus sparking the arduous task of rewriting. Suh explains, "The rewriting process, of course, is always focused on just making sure to take the play as far as it can go, deepening it emotionally, centering and focusing the storytelling, and in general, making it as effective as it can possibly be. That's the adventure. Finding out who we are and what we're capable of, whether we're children or monsters, if we have superpowers crucial to the fate of the universe, or powers that are ultimately kind of lame. And to go on this adventure at CTC, with Ralph Pen?a, where we can make all these impossible things really happen, is just about the best thing I can imagine."
"The opportunity came at the perfect time," according to Pen?a, but life-altering events soon got in the way of the development process. Pena elaborates, "Sometimes, in theater, life can get in the way. In those three years, a baby was born, there were marriages and some of the actors landed roles in Hollywood. But we kept working, on and off, adding new scenes, cutting away entire sections, shaping a story that we all wanted to tell. Each time we got together, it was like a big, noisy family gathering. We found new insights, and came up with more questions. The whole process was a slow simmer, and it was what the play needed."
What Lloyd Suh created after the three-year incubation period is the rock 'em sock 'em science fiction adventure, The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chubucabra Go! told in the visual style of anime and graphic novels. Suh's own life-altering experience contributed to his final draft. Suh explains, "As a new father, one of the many amazing things that I've learned is how early a child begins to imagine. Before we can walk, before we can talk, we can pretend that one thing is another, or imagine that something's there when it isn't. Peter and Ralph encouraged me from the beginning to write from that place, even if it seemed impossible. And that's where the flying rocks came from, and the dragon and the Woofenwolves and the robot puppets - as a way to honor that basic human impulse to imagine."
The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go! by Lloyd Suh will run at Children's Theatre Company on the Cargill Stage October 8 - November 17, 2013. The production, directed by Ralph Pen?a will then head to New York's Ellen Stewart Theatre beginning its run January 28, 2014. The show is recommended for grades three and up. For season tickets or for more information visit childrenstheatre.org.
Children's Theatre Company (CTC) is the first theatre for young people to win the coveted Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater (2003). Founded in 1965, CTC serves more than 300,000 people annually and is one of the 20 largest theater companies in the nation. The company is noted for defining worldwide standards for youth theatre with an innovative mix of classic tales, celebrated international productions and challenging new work.
Photo Credit: Dan Norman
Alton Alburo and Sasha Diamond
Matthew Gunn Park
Sasha Diamond, Katie Peters