Peace On Your Wings

October 1, 2017

September 21st was the International Day of Peace, also known as World Peace Day. It was oficially established in 1981 and serves as a reminder of efforts both within a country and between countries to strengthen togetherness and peace.

Here at Xyza, we were reminded of World Peace Day when we had the opportunity to interview the women behind the Bay Area musical production of “Peace On Your Wings.” It’s a story that was inspired by Sadako Sasaki, a little girl who was a victim of the Hiroshima atomic bomb during World War II. She became a symbol of peace after she fell sick and attempted to fold a thousand cranes from her hospital bed.

Shayna Yasunaga and Maya Nakamoto, “Sadako’s Light”, Ohana Arts production at a John Jay College in New York City

Jenny Taira, one of the creators of “Peace On Your Wings” said that she “had visited Hiroshima and it was always in the back of [her] mind that someday this story should be told.” But unlike many musical productions where the story is told by adults, she wanted the story of Sadako to be told by children. Jenny and her partner Laurie Rubin put pen to paper and came up with an emotionally sophisticated story about the effects of war that would be told by an all-youth cast. Yes, we said an all-youth cast! No cast member is over the age of eighteen. It was important to Jenny and Laurie that the characters were played by children, and not by adults pretending to be children. Why? Because they respect the emotional intelligence of kids!

Think these women are pretty awesome? Trust us, they are! What else did they want to share with Xyza readers? Jenny, Laurie, choreographer Dannielle Bensky (Danny for short), and Karen Altree-Piemme wanted to share some advice and words of encouragement for kids interested in the world of performing arts. Here’s what they had to say:

What advice would you give to kids who want to be in a musical?
Danny: Walking into an audition I think you need total confidence first of all—you just can’t be fearful of rejection. Come in prepared with a song and be ready to dance…Don’t be afraid of being silly. If you’re judging yourself, you can’t give all of yourself to the performance.

Jenny: For those who have no experience, don’t be afraid to just try … get your feet wet with any kind of experience, your community theater or whatever’s around you and what’s available and sometimes just getting to know the community through that experience you’ll be able to build other connections and they’ll be able to help you and guide you through within your own community and what’s the next step

Karen: It’s important for young people to know that the people who are auditioning them are actually really pulling for them. We’re rooting for them. We want them to be able to be successful and do well and so we’re going to do everything going we can to try and help them be their best when they come to audition.

How about kids who want to write his or her own musical, but doesn’t know where to begin?
Laurie: Just start writing … Put the words on paper and eventually something will inspire you.

What do you tell a kid who thinks something is too big or too difficult?
Karen: Start with the belief that something’s possible. Then chip away and figure out how to actually do it.

Laurie: I grew up with really positive parents, so they wanted me to have a very normal life. But I did grow up with people around me assuming I wouldn’t be able to do certain things because being a blind person people would just assume that I couldn’t do things like put on my own makeup or match my clothes or go snow skiing, so I think I was really lucky in a way to have people tell me that I couldn’t do things cause it gave me the desire to tell them, ‘No, I can totally do that! And I’m going to prove you wrong!’ … I think we all have challenges. Women have challenges. Minority groups have challenges. But anytime you’re given a challenge, I think you’re more equipped with how to overcome that and how to actually work harder to get to what you want.

When we asked Jenny, Laurie, Danny, and Karen what’s the message they want kids to take away from “Peace On Your Wings,” they said that they should learn to live in the moment and love for right now. What does that mean exactly? Danny put it best when she said that she constantly tells her cast to take in every moment of every single rehearsal because no other rehearsal is going to be exactly like the one they’re in right now. She reminds them to “be in the now and not think about what’s going to happen in fifteen minutes.”

Bay Area Cast of “Peace On Your Wings”

Chloe F., Xyza Junior Reporter and cast member of “Peace On Your Wings”, wanted to live in the moment and interview some of her fellow cast members during a rehearsal a few weeks ago. She sat down with Shayna who plays Sadako, Devin who plays Minoru, Tegan who plays Setsuko, and Kenny who plays Isamu, to give Xyza readers an inside look at the kids behind “Peace On Your Wings”.

Why did you want to be in Peace On Your Wings?
Tegan L. (Setsuko): I honestly found it great because this is the one opportunity where I could actually get a part in a musical for kids and for Asians.

What made you want to try out for a musical?
Kenny T. (Isamu): I’ve been very interested in musicals except I’ve noticed a big portion of Asians that are actors, they don’t get good parts. It’s either being put like a stereotypical Asian part or a person who doesn’t even show their face. It’s good to be able to show that we can make a difference and we can prove that it’s not just other races who can be good at musicals.

Do you ever feel frustrated when you can’t remember a line?
Shayna Y. (Sadako): If I’m ever frustrated with anything that I feel I am doing wrong I know there are many many people in the cast that I Can go to. I can go to my directors, my teachers, or my friends for help.

Would you encourage other kids to try out for musicals?
Devin W. (Minoru): Definitely. It’s a life changing experience. It’s saying something to put yourself out there and it’ll change your life forever.