In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre this weekend is debuting a collaboration with the city of Pleasanton to uplift art and voices in the community.
The performing arts group is producing "The Song of the Nightingale", a musical fairytale with themes of kindness, true beauty and perseverance, at the Firehouse Arts Center in downtown Pleasanton from this Saturday (April 29) through May 14.
The story takes place in ancient China and follows a young kitchen maid, Mei Lin, who is informed that the Emperor of China is seeking the fabled Nightingale bird who possesses the power to bring hope through song. Lin offers to find the bird in return for a higher status in the empire.
The deal between the Emperor and Lin quickly turns sour as the young girl learns valuable lessons about love and kindness. The musical adaptation, composed and written by Bay Area playwright Min Kahng, is based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Nightingale", originally published in 1843.
The Tri-Valley Rep show stars local actors Ann Warque as Mei Lin, Myles Wu as Emperor and Mercy Wu as Nightingale.
Director Jepoy Ramos explained that the show was chosen in collaboration with Tri-Valley Rep and Pleasanton city staff. Together, the parties worked to select a production option that would represent and honor the upcoming Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which runs annually from May 1-31.
"They wanted to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and they thought let's produce a show that is written by an Asian American, and features an all-AAPI cast," Ramos told the Weekly.
"It's a simple story about finding your true self and sharing that love with your community, no matter where you are or your status in life. As long as you're true to yourself, you're able to uplift others and that will cause a ripple effect of good to the rest of your community," he added.
Ramos, an experienced thespian, has been involved in theater and performing arts for the past 17 years. He has served many roles on various live productions, including stage manager, actor and director.
When reflecting on his work with "The Song of the Nightingale" cast, Ramos shared positive and grateful sentiments and said he valued being able to highlight local AAPI voices for the upcoming heritage month.
"Working with this cast and staff has been a pleasure," Ramos said. "I've designed the rehearsal process to be short and intense, and everyone has been so professional in learning their lines, songs, choreo and working together to create and bring this amazing story to life."
"What I also like about Tri-Valley Rep is that it allowed us to hire an all AAPI cast and a staff full of allies allowing us to share this wonderful story, uplifting the voices from our community and working to help us spread the message of kindness and love to one another," Ramos added.
Above all, Ramos said he hopes that the production can deeply impact audience members.
"What I hope audiences will see is that it is possible for local theater companies to produce and support works written by people from our community and feature an all-AAPI cast," Ramos said. "I hope that the audience will feel the passion from all of the artists and will embrace the themes of kindness and love. I hope they will walk away feeling good, feeling uplifted and feeling motivated to share good things with their community as well."
Tri-Valley Rep, mostly composed of volunteers, performs regular full-length musicals at various venues in the region, including at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore and Firehouse Arts Center in Pleasanton.
Evening shows of "The Song of the Nightingale" take place April 29, May 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. Afternoon shows are April 29, May 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase at www.firehousearts.org.