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’Wong Kids’ Director on His Love of Theater

The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go! will play at the Paramount Center February 20-March 6.

They say you never know what you want to be when you grow up until your teens or even after college. Sometimes, you know at an early age of seven or eight, as was the case for artistic director of the Ma-Yi Theater Company, Ralph B. Peña.

As a child, Peña knew he wanted to go into theater. His parents discouraged him from pursuing a career in performing arts, but encouraged his sister to do so. He would watch his sister perform and knew that it was something he could do as well. “I could do that better,” Peña said he told himself as child. When he reached high school, he begged his mom to let him join a theater company and, since then, he has never left the theater world.

Peña talked about his latest play to hit Boston —The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go! Presented by ArtsEmerson and written by Lloyd Suh, the play is about Violet and Bruce Wong, who have super powers and don’t fit in. When an evil beast called the Space Chupacabra appears, the Wong Kids must travel to outer space in order to stop it. Suh and Peña spent four years on and off working on this play. Peña discussed how he came up with the stage layout and concept of the play. “We wanted to engage the imagination of the kids,” Peña said, “and I knew we’d be able to best achieve this goal by keeping the set “sparse, inventive, and low-tech.”

Becoming a known theater actor like Sutton Foster or Andrew Rannells may seem impossible, but Peña highlights that anyone can participate in theater if they put their mind to it. And with the help of YouTube and other media outlets, people have easier access to get their name out there and share their talent. “Don’t let anybody stop you,” Peña said—emphasizing the importance of not waiting to be tapped by Hollywood or for someone to hand your dream to you.

The Wong Kids in The Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go! will be showing at the Paramount Theater from February 20 through March 6, before it heads off to the Philippines later this year. Tickets range from $25 to $75. Discounted tickets are available for groups, students, and seniors, as well as members of the Emerson community. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 617-824-8400.

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