Discovery Cube Orange County creates its first-ever STEM musical in time for the holiday season.
It’s the night before the big science fair, and 17-year-old high school student Lumina is working feverishly in her makeshift Santa Ana garage lab amid storage bins and holiday garland. She must win first place to gain a life-changing college scholarship, but nothing is working.
She won’t be defeated, but she doubts herself: “Is she good enough?” “Can girls do science?”
Through a bit of magic and holiday spirit, a science fairy appears and takes Lumina, her younger sibling Alex and her adorable robot friend Jean Luc (portrayed by a puppet and puppeteer) on a wild journey through magical lands, where she realizes the importance of the scientific process, accepting failure, leading from her heart and the support of community and family.
It’s the premise of Discovery Cube Orange County’s new, unique way to encourage STEM: a holiday musical called “Winter Lights.” The theatrical endeavor is happening with the help of Orange County couple Tim and Pamela Winslow Kashani, who have written, produced and performed in a number of Broadway shows, including a few Tony Award winners. The musical also stars young talent from Orange County School of the Arts as well as Pamela herself.
“The genesis of the show came from the idea to create a role model our kids can easily relate to so they can be unafraid to embrace science, no matter their age, gender or background,” says Pamela. “A spark of divine inspiration gave us the idea of a story that follows our main character, Lumina, a 17-year-old Santa Anan, in a journey that merges scientific themes with upbeat music, humor and spectacle. We’ve been in development with our little four-character holiday musical since 2019, so it feels great to have the full show — lights, sound, costumes, special effects and all — live this December.”
An OC native, Pamela says she wanted to connect directly to the OC community with this show.
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“Our main character Lumina lives in Santa Ana and has been going to Discovery Cube since she was a little girl, just as I took my son there for so many years,” says Pamela. “While at the Cube, Lumina has the ‘aha’ moment that changes her life: loving science so much that she dreams of pursuing it as a career. Perhaps through this show, other young budding scientists of all backgrounds will be encouraged and inspired to follow their own dreams,” she says.
STEM is, in fact, the fifth character of this show, according to Pamela.
“Through a fantastical journey across magical lands (including a stop at the Cube), Lumina learns what it takes to be a great scientist: embracing the scientific process, letting go of results, having fun, accepting failure and understanding the deep passion that drives us all to make the world a better place,” she says.
In terms of the show’s talent, Tim served on the OCSA board previously. So they reached out to friends who connected them to the music theater director who then sent a video highlighting her students.
“She pointed us to Sophia Ruiz to play Lumina, and we offered her the role,” she says. “We are so grateful to have Sophia on our team. She embodies Lumina’s intelligence, wit and hopefulness — and has a glorious voice. I can’t wait for you to hear her sing in the show. The rest of the casting has been done through our casting director Lindsay Brooks, our own networks and word of mouth. Since we are running multiple shows a day, we have tripled cast all the roles, and we now have several OCSA students joining us.”
“Winter Lights” debuts at Discovery Cube OC’s Argyros theater Dec. 16-Jan. 8.
By Jessica Peralta