A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

According to Japanese legend, anyone who folds 
1,000 origami paper cranes is granted one wish. In connection with International Peace Day (Sept. 21) commemorating the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ohana Arts and Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, in partnership with Helen Bing, present the North American premiere of the new musical Peace on Your Wings on Friday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 19, at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Aratani Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles.

Culture Spot LA readers can win a pair of tickets to the show. Please email editor@culturespotla.com with “Peace” in the subject line and note which performance (Friday or Saturday at 8 p.m.) you would like to attend in the body of the email.

The show is inspired by the real-life story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who survived the atomic bombings only to develop leukemia. She became an international symbol for peace through her quest to fold a thousand paper cranes in hopes of having her wish for good health come true. The Broadway-caliber musical features an all-youth cast, ages 6 to 18 from the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Set in post-war 1950s Japan, the musical follows the lives of middle school students in Hiroshima. When one of them falls seriously ill, the children’s lives and their tenuous bonds unravel. But one girl’s struggle and dreams for a better tomorrow teach the children — and the world — about courage, love and peace.

The musical’s original musical score, written by Ohana Arts’ Artistic and Executive Director and composer Jennifer Taira and Associate Artistic Director and lyricist Laurie Rubin (raised in Encino), combines modern pop with Japanese influences to create a unique, uplifting and inspiring show.

According to Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 origami paper cranes is granted one wish, such as long life, eternal good luck or recovery from illness or injury. Having survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a toddler, Sasaki grew up to be one of the best athletes and most popular students in her middle school.  At age 11 she was diagnosed with leukemia, or the “A-bomb disease” as it was then called, and given just one year to live. Hoping to be cured, Sasaki and her friends began making hundreds of origami birds out of needle wrappings, medicine labels and any other paper they could find — hanging the birds from the ceiling of her hospital room. When she reached 1,000, she continued folding for herself and others until she died at age 12.

Sadako has come to symbolize the effects of the peace movement, as her death inspired a youth movement to have a Hiroshima memorial built in honor of the child victims.  Notes co-creator Laurie Rubin: “While Peace on Your Wings features a cast of children, there is nothing childish about the message. The musical explores Sadako as an individual, a student and friend, and addresses universal themes present in young people’s lives, powerfully told by the voices of youth, touching intergenerational audiences, while sharing the message ‘IchigoIchie,’ meaning, ‘Today is the first and last day of your life.’”

After its Los Angeles performances, the musical will travel to Washington, D.C., and New York City before heading to Japan for a four-city tour in July and August 2016.

Peace on Your Wings premiered on Oahu in November 2014, and enjoyed a sold-out state-wide tour in January and February 2015. Due to popular demand, Peace on Your Wings returned to Oahu for an encore run of performances in August on the 70th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On opening night, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell who was in attendance proclaimed Aug. 6, 2015, official “Peace on Your Wings Day.” The performances were also attended by Masahiro Sasaki, Sadako’s eldest brother, and his son Yuji Sasaki.

Tickets are $35/25 reserved seating; $15 for students 17 and under.  For tickets, call the Aratani Theatre at (213) 680-3700 or order online at JACCC.ORG.