Prince Charming plays a major role in many of the stories acted out at Treehouse Museum, but there's no Prince Charming in this play.
"Urashima Taro, he's just an ordinary kind of fisherman, but he's very kind and has a good heart," said Rob Goodwin, who wrote the script and plays the lead role.
The curtain rises on "The Fisherman" at 6 p.m. each Saturday in March. An additional performance starts at 7:15 p.m. March 26.
"The Fisherman" is based on a traditional Japanese folk tale.
"It's about this ordinary fisherman who has a fantastic voyage into the world under the sea, and ultimately has to come back in some way," said Goodwin, of North Ogden. "He meets the Princess of the Dragon, and because he's a good man with a good heart, she invites him to go down and visit her kingdom under the sea. ... He has to deal with sharks, and winds up winning the princess's hand in marriage."
Treehouse Troupe, the children's museum's acting company, does three plays each year. Two of the plays are typically based on well-known fairy tales; the third is usually from another country.
"We travel around the world with the stories, and we hadn't done one from Japan," said Goodwin.
"The Fisherman" was selected because the museum has a copy of the story in one of its exhibits.
Tradition, pop culture
Goodwin became the play's writer because of his background. As the son of the Treehouse Museum's director, he's spent a lot of time in the museum and knows the audience. Better yet, he studied creative writing while earning an undergraduate degree in English. To top it off, he recently completed a master's degree in Asian studies.
Goodwin spent more than a year living in Japan during his studies, and used his knowledge of the country to add to the script.
"We tried to use some Japanese language," he said, adding that words and phrases will be translated for the audience.
The actors are learning traditional Japanese greetings, aisatsu, that include bowing.
"We've tried to use the formality, and structured tiers of society, because he's a fisherman who meets a king and princess," Goodwin said.
In addition to traditional Japanese culture, Treehouse Troupe's version of "The Fisherman" incorporates pop culture.
"We didn't want to pretend to be Japanese, but we wanted to get the feel and vibe as much as we could," Goodwin said. "Japanese pop culture looked like a good way to solve that."
Goodwin and Ogden actors Wes Whitby, Michael Rackham and Sarah Dosier will be costumed in kimonos and crazy wigs with an anime look.
Happier ever after
Capturing the look of Japan was easier than capturing the look of the sea. Kelp and coral add to the set, as do a shark costume and a little bit of stage magic.
Another challenge was creating the play's ending.
The traditional ending of "The Fisherman" is sad.
"Nobody's in tears, but it usually has a fairly harsh ending in the Japanese version. We're not doing that," he said. "We're kind of making it a little more upbeat."