Max Waszak was a member of the TAM Acting Company for three summers and has been an actor and director for TAM’s Shakespeare in Maine Communities and Page to Stage touring productions. This year we asked him to step into a new role as adaptor/ playwright for The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and we asked him to share his thoughts about the experience.

What inspired you to write this adaptation?
Upon reading the original tale, I felt that now more than ever, young minds deserve exposure to different cultures from around the world. As a Japanese-American theater artist, I was especially excited to heighten awareness of my ancestors’ stories. I also find it to be an incredibly imaginative story and in today’s world of hyper-realism, it is of the greatest importance to encourage children’s sense of play.

To which moments in the original tale were you most drawn?
I was especially drawn to the moment when Kaguya disappears in the presence of the Emperor. I loved that she begins to discover her origins and her power at this point. It reminded me of Harry Potter setting the python free at the zoo. I was also excited about the suitors as they seemed like a great opportunity for some comedy.

In what ways have you adapted the tale for a 21st-Century audience?
In many ways. Most noticeably, the adaptation has become a vehicle for environmental education. This story about a princess who is found inside a plant already had an earthy vibe. Additionally, the original title of the story was The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, but that has been changed to support Kaguya as the story’s protagonist. Finally, I’ve incorporated some comedic moments into the tale and restructured the storytelling to create a more interesting audio-visual experience.

What do you think the moral or message is in your version?
I’d say something like “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”–or to think more positively, “Care for and nurture what you have.” I think everyone in the story experiences this feeling on at least one level and I hope the audience is able to identify with the characters and know that the same experiences are possible in their lives.? With regard to Kaguya’s wishes, I hope audience members come away with a better sense of stewardship of the planet–that we must support it, if we hope for it to support us.