by: Onalee Duhrkoop, Malia Mataele plays Mulan in the Black Swan Youth Theatre’s production of the same name. She shares the role with Tabitha Card.

Malia Mataele, 15, a freshman at Reynolds High School, is one of two young ladies who plays the title character in Black Swan Youth Theatre's 'Mulan.'

'I think that she's the type of person who knows what she wants and doesn't care what people think of her,' Mataele says.

However, Mulan does have to care a little bit about what people think because in ancient China a girl like her was not allowed to be a warrior. However, Mulan enlists in the army to save her aging father from conscription, hiding her female identity from her fellow soldiers.

'I think that it's cool that she wanted to be in the army, but I think it's really risky,' Mataele says. 'She wanted to do it just to help her family.'

Based on the 1998 Disney animated musical of the same name, 'Mulan' debuts at 7 p.m. Friday, June 1, at Portland Lutheran School, 740 S.E. 182nd Ave., and runs this weekend and next through Saturday, June 9.

Mataele says she believes East County audiences will enjoy the show.

'There's a lot of humor and jokes, sad parts and also scary parts,' she says. 'I think that they're really going to enjoy it because we put our own twist on it. Black Swan tries not to stay exactly with what the script says.'

Her theater troupe works hard to elicit a strong response from folks in the seats, she says.

'We try to make the audience feel what the characters are feeling,' Mataele adds. 'It takes a lot of time and effort, and you have to really focus.'

The other Mulan

Mataele shares her role with Tabitha Card, 16, a Reynolds High sophomore. The two girls will play the title character on alternating nights.

'I really enjoy the combat scenes; those are lots of fun,' Card says. 'I've never really done combat in a play before. It's a different style of acting, and it's quite enjoyable.'

It's also a little dangerous, she adds, what with all the kicking and swordplay.

'Bruises and little cuts are basically all you're going to get, but nothing harmful.'

On that note, Susan Scott, director of Black Swan, notes her son, Erik Scott, serves as stage combat director and emphasizes safety.

'It's like choreography,' she says. 'Every move is completely planned out, so you know what's coming at you, even though you act like you don't know.'

Folks who enjoyed the Disney musical will like the Black Swan version, she adds.

'It's funny, and it's nice to see the well-loved cartoon on stage,' Card says.

She and her fellow 'Mulan' both say they get a charge out of acting.

'I've been doing this since I was in fifth grade,' Mataele says. 'It makes me a lot more happy when I'm performing in front of an audiences because their faces show me I'm doing the right thing.'

A chance to walk in someone else's shoes for a few hours is what motivates Card.

'I become another person because I can feel their emotions,' she says. 'It's just almost another adventure in itself.'

Dragon the lines

Emily Brady, 12, a sixth-grader at Butler Creek Elementary School in Gresham, portrays Mushu, a dragon that 'loves to be the crazy center of attention,' she says.

Mushu serves as Mulan's protector, teaching the young lady how to be one of the guys.

'He is basically always by Mulan's side,' Brady says. 'He teaches her the basics of getting a guy's voice down and the walk, and being confident.'

Brady says she has a lot in common with Mushu.

'We both have a lot of personality,' she says, however adding that she does not breathe fire in real life. If she did breathe fire, she'd use it on her enemies or to start summertime barbecues, she says.

'I like burgers,' she adds, noting she thinks folks will enjoy the show.

'It's got funny parts, but there's a truth to it,' Brady says. 'You can be yourself - don't let anybody tell you who you are.'

If you go

WHAT: Black Swan Youth

Theatre's 'Mulan'

WHEN: 7 p.m.

Fridays, June 1 and 8; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturdays, June 2 and 9

WHERE: Portland Lutheran School Stage, 740 S.E. 182nd Ave.

COST: $8 students and seniors, $9 adults

INFO: Reservations at or 503-501-6079

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