As a young Chinese girl growing up in the ’80s, I didn’t read a lot of books with Asian protagonists, much less any written by Asian-American authors. There was very little representation of people who looked like me on television or in movies, plays or musicals. So it was with much anticipation and gratitude that I brought my two boys and my mom to watch Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, an Oregon Children’s Theatre production of Grace Lin’s award-winning novel.
Recommended for ages 6 and older, this 75-minute production is an incredible story about Minli, a brave young girl who goes on a journey to change her family’s fortune. She is from a poor community, with parents who are farmers in a fruitless land. Along the way, she befriends a dragon who joins her on an adventure to the Old Man of the Moon, in order to change their circumstances for a better life. Minli learns some important lessons along the way, as do her parents, about what true fortune is.
The whole cast does a magnificent job of carrying the story in lyrical choreography and song, but Minli, played by Madeleine Tran, radiates with incredible acting and a gorgeous voice. She portrays Minli’s childlike wonder with ease. The creative use of the stage and props helped create movement in the different scenes of the story. Lin’s book is based on the cadence of Chinese folklore, and the play does a wonderful job of carrying that same cadence, even though it is abbreviated.
My 10-year-old and I both read the book and loved the play. We were curious to see how they would fit everything in 75 minutes. They didn’t, but we were glad they captured the essence of the book. My 6-year-old didn’t read the book, but was able to follow and enjoy the whole story. He was captivated during the whole show. And my mother, an immigrant who grew up on Chinese folklore, who has little experience seeing her childhood stories translated to an American stage, loved the play. She loved the story-telling that was beautifully captured by the actors and the set. She loved the poignant lesson of thankfulness even when things don’t look great on the outside. It was a wonderful afternoon being transported to a different place and different time, and I am so thankful that OCT has shown great honor to my culture, and that I was able to share the experience with my family.
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