Stories and Vocals by Anne Hills; Puppetry by Mock Turtle; Lyrics by Michael Smith; Incidental music by Jay Ansill; Directed by Doug Roysdon
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Musical
Runs through 8.29.15
VENUE #5: The Celebration Of Whimsy, 21 Clinton St
by Sarah Moore on 8.24.15
Mallory DeForest, Catherine Restivo, Kayla Prestel, Anne Hills, Anna Russell in The Morningtime of Now. Photo by Emma Chong.
BOTTOM LINE: A light and pleasant folk musical, based on the nature journals of Opal Whiteley, featuring puppets.
The Mock Turtle Marionette Theater Company and folk musical artist Anne Hills have created a short musical based on the nature journals of Opal Whiteley, and before seeing this Fringe production of The Morningtime of Now, Whiteley's name was completely unknown to me. Written by Opal as a youth (allegedly), the nature journals beautifully describe her childhood adventures in the rural Pacific Northwest. There, she wrote imaginatively about her childhood adventures with animals that she named after historic and literary characters.
The creators of this piece: vocalist and musician Anne Hills, director Doug Roysdon of the Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, musician Jay Ansill, and composer Michael Smith, were drawn to the simplistic beauty of Opal’s writings on nature, which they set to folk music. To illustrate the music, they added puppets to represent Opal and her animal friends.
I found the music to be soothing and pleasant, and Opal’s prose works splendidly as lyrics. Anne Hills is an appealing performer who is very enjoyable to watch. I can picture this show traveling around to schools and I imagine that younger children would enjoy it (though they may have to cut the one hour running time for shorter attention spans). The puppets are old-fashioned and charming, reminding me of the traveling school shows of my own childhood. (Assisting Anne Hills are Kayla Prestel as the voice of Opal Whiteley and fellow puppeteers Mallory Fran deForest, Catherine Restivo, and Anna Russell.) There is not much plot or conflict to speak of, which sometimes makes the duration of the piece feel longer than it is, and there is little variety in the guitar and harp music, which may cause attentions to drift.
Overall, The Morningtime of Now has beautiful melodies and I am grateful to the creators for introducing me to the work of Opal Whiteley. I am especially intrigued, however, by the program note explaining that Opal’s journals may not have been written by her six-year-old self, but rather as a mature adult, due to the fact that as she grew older her behavior became more erratic and she insisted that she was the kidnapped daughter of a lost French prince. But maybe that’s a different Fringe show.
(The Morningtime of Now plays at VENUE #5: The Celebration Of Whimsy, 21 Clinton St, through August 29, 2015. Performances are Wed 8/19 at 7; Sun 8/23 at 9; Tue 8/25 at 2; Fri 8/28 at 7; and Fri 8/29 at 4:15. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit themorningtimeofnow.com.)