American Repertory Theater to develop Julia Riew’s Korean folktale musical, ‘Dive’

Julia Riew (from left), Diana Son, and Diane Paulus.

Julia Riew (from left), Diana Son, and Diane Paulus.

3 min read

American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University announced Wednesday that the theater will develop Julia Riew’s musical “Dive,” previously known as “Shimcheong: A Folktales.” “Stop Kiss” playwright Diana Son and Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus join Fred Ebb Award winner Riew on the expanding creative team that will center Asian American voices.

Audiences are encouraged to follow the show’s development including exclusive behind-the-scenes content, new music, and updates on Riew’s TikTok and Instagram channels: @juliariew. An A.R.T. world premiere production in a future season will be announced at a later date.

“Dive” tells the story of a brave young woman who falls into the depths of the ocean while trying to save her father, and her journey toward self-actualization and home. The musical is a contemporary adaptation of the Korean folktale “Shimcheong (The Blind Man’s Daughter)” and is inspired by Riew’s own journey as a third-generation Korean American woman.

Riew’s passion for the project and for broadening representation in musical theater have resonated around the world. Content Riew shared from “Shimcheong” (now “Dive”) on TikTok in early 2022 has garnered a following of over 124,000 users, over 2.8 million likes, and over 16 million streams.

Riew’s and A.R.T.’s collaboration began in 2019. After members of A.R.T.’s artistic team saw “The East Side,” an original musical Riew wrote and co-directed, the theater commissioned her to write the family-oriented shows “Thumbelina: A Little Musical,” which premiered at the Loeb Drama Center in December 2019, and “Jack and the Beanstalk: A Musical Adventure,” which was released digitally along with a cast album by A.R.T. in December 2020. Riew also served as the music and dramaturgy assistant for A.R.T.’s 2021 production of “WILD: A Musical Becoming” and as a stage management assistant on A.R.T.’s 2019 production of “Gloria: A Life” directed by Diane Paulus.

Riew began developing “Dive” as her senior thesis project as an undergraduate student at Harvard, and A.R.T. Director of Artistic Programs & Dramaturg Ryan McKittrick served as her thesis adviser.

“Dive” is the musical that I wish I could’ve seen as a child — one for all ages that grapples with themes of identity, friendship, love, and belonging, ” says Riew. “With this adaptation, Diana, Diane, and I intend to give Shimcheong’s character a new sense of agency and to create opportunities for actresses in a variety of roles. I couldn’t be more excited to develop this piece at the American Repertory Theater, which has grown to be my theatrical home. I’m grateful for the guidance of the incredible artists at A.R.T., and I’m beyond thrilled to embark on this adventure with Diane — a director with unparalleled vision — and the brilliant Diana Son: two great inspirations to me as fellow female, Asian American theater-makers.”

“‘Dive’ speaks directly to the A.R.T.’s mission to expand the boundaries of theater, bringing to our stages a story that has not been seen or heard in American musical theater,” says Paulus. “I am thrilled to be working with Julia and Diana, and to be a part of this all female Asian American team.”