“I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.”
-Sadako Sasaki, Age 12
“Peace On Your Wings” is an original musical inspired by the life of Sadako Sasaki, a 12-year old girl who died from leukemia resulting from radiation caused by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. She was made famous for having folded over a thousand paper cranes to fulfill an old Japanese legend that would grant one wish to anyone who would fold one thousand cranes. To this day she is a reminder of innocent victims of war, and her story of her thousand paper cranes have inspired a movement of folding cranes for peace. The musical juxtaposes Sadako’s true story and the events leading up to her death in November 1955 with a fictional story about a group of her friends who rallied support from around Japan to have a monument built in Sadako’s memory to honor the children victims of the atomic bomb.
The fictional elements of the musical provide an opportunity to weave in issues that affect children in middle school today. In creating a piece of theater that shares an important historical element, and keeping it relatable to current young audiences, “Peace On Your Wings” is able to effectively impart Sadako’s message, and the important contributions of a group of young students who were able to make a difference. It is because of Sadako’s young friends that people around the world know Sadako, and why the origami crane has become an internationally recognized symbol of peace.
Set in post-war 1950′s Japan, “Peace On Your Wings” explores the lives of students at a middle school in Hiroshima as they face the terminal illness of their friend amidst their own adolescent drama. The musical score combines modern musical theater, 1950’s boogie-woogie and rock and roll, and Japanese styles, including taiko, to create a unique, uplifting, and inspiring show. While Sadako remains optimistic in the hospital, determinately folding origami cranes to fulfill the Japanese legend promising one wish and long life to the folder of a thousand, her friends grow distant as they deal with their own self identity, bullying, and the growing pains of becoming teenagers. Though the students have to grapple with issues of terminal illness and death at such a young age, they also learn the power of their own strength, and their ability to connect deeply with others who remain positive, focusing on living every precious moment of their lives to the fullest. “Peace On Your Wings” teaches the lesson, “Ichigo Ichie,” meaning “Today is the first and last day of your life.”
“Peace On Your Wings” was premiered by Ohana Arts, a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to promote peace and world friendship through the universal language of the arts and which the writers, Jennifer Taira and Laurie Rubin co-founded, along with director Carolyn Lee, on the weekend of November 20th-22nd 2014 in Honolulu, Hawaii in the 600-seat Leeward Theatre. The weekend included four packed performances, two of which were sold out with last minute hopeful audience members having to be turned away. The Ohana Arts all-star cast was comprised of 38 children, ages 6-18 from 15 schools around the island. The full scale production had a 19 piece orchestra, full set, and costumes.
Following the successful world premiere in Honolulu, the cast and crew embarked on a sold-out statewide tour to the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai in January and February 2015, with standing ovations at every performance.
Due to popular demand, the show returned to Honolulu for an encore run of performances at the 1400-seat Hawaii Theatre on August 6th-9th, 2015 commemorating the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At this special run of performances, Masahiro Sasaki, Sadako’s real life brother was in attendance, along with his wife and son, Yuji Sasaki, who performed a song he wrote about Sadako, “Inori”.
Most recently, the cast and crew of Peace On Your Wings traveled to Los Angeles, California for its exciting North American premiere, at the 880-seat Aratani Theatre on September 18th-19th, 2015. The show was incredibly well received by audiences, as the cast received standing ovations at every performance! In just a short time, Peace On Your Wings has already received many awards and recognitions, including a Certificate of Commendation from the City Council of Honolulu, an award from the United Nations Association of Hawaii, and a proclamation from Mayor Caldwell, who announced August 6th, 2015 as “Peace On Your Wings Day” prior to the opening night performance at Hawaii Theatre. Peace On Your Wings has also been the subject of two mini-documentaries by NHK (Japan’s largest news network), and has been featured on KTLA news, Broadway World, Huffington Post, and MidWeek (cover story) amongst others.
In 2016, the cast and creative team of Peace On Your Wings will be working hard to produce a revised version of the show at Mamiya Theatre in April. Following the performances at Mamiya Theatre, the cast, crew, and creative team will travel to Japan for an exciting multi-city tour of Japan!
More than a play
Peace On Your Wings is more than a musical theater play. It is part of a continual movement to educate children and adults alike about the important global message of peace. It is a way to get people to connect with an under recognized piece of history more than any textbook could convey. Music is a universal language everyone understands which touches people’s deepest vulnerability and emotions. Music has been utilized for centuries as the most visceral way to personally connect people with current events and past atrocities so that history will not repeat itself. Responses to the world premiere of “Peace On Your Wings” have been overwhelmingly touching and positive. Audience members who were not familiar with Sadako’s story have now taken her message to heart. Other audience members were victims of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki themselves, and were moved deeply by our cast of children, saying that they truly paid homage to Sadako and others like her who suffered the after effects. Many audience members were children, and we were told by their parents that the musical both entertained and moved them. The goal of Peace On Your Wings is to bring Sadako’s story to many more audiences, to show how it is the little gestures that make a big difference, and to teach the lesson of “Ichigo Ichie.” It is a show that will educate audiences of American children and adults alike about a piece of history which greatly affected those in Hiroshima.
Professional theater by youth for all generations
The creators of Peace On Your Wings wanted to write a professional, “adult” piece of musical theater that was challenging, yet appropriate for the ages and vocal ranges of youth performers. There is a dearth of repertoire of this genre in the musical theater world, as musicals are most often written with the intent of being produced on Broadway or by other professional theater companies with a majority of adult performers. Youth theater actors are often relegated to adult roles with inappropriate content that needs to be altered, or watered down children’s theater with simplified music and basic story lines. Conversely, there are a number of theater groups dedicated to commissioning and performing plays and musicals for children, but they are comprised of adult performers. Peace On Your Wings is one of the only plays of its kind, written for an all-youth cast ages 6-18, with content suitable and appropriate for a wide age range of students, and also comprises a substantial educational element by sharing an important piece of world history.
New voices in musical theater
Finally, Asians and Asian Americans are greatly underrepresented in musical theater, and Peace On Your Wings greatly enriches the repertoire for the pool of talented youth Asian actors who have dreams and aspirations of pursuing musical theater careers, and are deprived of opportunities to perform due to typecasting and limited roles. Because musical theater has been effective in educating audiences about various aspects of history, current events, and issues relevant to a variety of audiences, it is necessary to continue to tell stories that haven’t yet been told via musical theater, and to give voice to those who haven’t been heard.
PEACE ON YOUR WINGS
Presented by Ohana Arts
Music by Jennifer Taira
Lyrics by Laurie Rubin
Book by Jennifer Taira & Laurie Rubin
Orchestrations & Arrangements by Jennifer Taira
Director Carolyn Lee
Music Director Jennifer Taira
Choreographer Danielle Bensky
Assistant Music Director Barbara Ellis
Assistant Choreographer Diana Chan
Acting Coach Jill Bolstridge
Vocal Coach Laurie Rubin
Taiko Instructor Zachary Agcaoili
Translations Ryosuke Yanagitani
Stage Manager Paul Mawhar
Associate Producer BillyV
Assistant Stage Manager Diana Chan
Lighting Designer/Operator William Kirkham
Sound Designer/Engineer Anthony Sutton
Projection Designer Patrick Lord
Projection Assistant Rebecca Emmerich
Tech Assistant Matthew Yagi
Costume Designer Lori Okamura
Costume Crew Parents and Volunteers of Ohana Arts
Scenic Designer Patrick Lord
Set Construction Mike Inouye & Parents and Volunteers of Ohana Arts
Prop Master Zachary Agcaoili
Prop Committee Parents and Volunteers of Ohana Arts
Make-up and Hair Designer Sawako Van Osdol
Backstage Parents and Volunteers of Ohana Arts
Announcements Billy V
Tickets Gay Tanaka, Sandy Taketa, Jenna Skedeleski
Logistics Sandy Taketa, Gail Taira, Cari Lee, Liane Viloria
Marketing/Publicity Billy V, Laurie Rubin, Cyd Shizuru, Parents and Volunteers of Ohana Arts
Sponsor/Sales Laurie Rubin, Gail Taira, Parents and Volunteers of Ohana Arts
Graphic Design Cyd Shizuru
Editor David Choo
Refreshment Coordinators Dawn Kakuni, Charlyne Tom
Travel Coordinators Monica Tomimoto, Kathy Nakamoto
Safety Officers Yvonne Toma, Sandy Park