A Watery Musical Memoir as told to JAMES DURST
An Eco-Peace World Musical for Planetary Citizens of All Ages Celebrating Unity in Diversity, Friendship, Environmental Sustainability and Peace
Music and Book by JAMES DURST
With additional songs by Jim Scott, Bill Staines, Lorre Wyatt,
Daniel Alómias Robles, Molly Scott, Jay Mankita & Pham Duy
© 1995-2012 James Durst/PhoeniXongs ASCAP
Hue Manatee’s Quest may be most effectively expressed as a choreographed multi-media theater piece, with from 8 to 15 players. Stage adaptations are available in several forms:
1) Hue’s first-person account, 2) a third-person ‘storyteller’ version, and 3) a one-man show.
The story is also available as a Screenplay, a Book Manuscript and an audio CD: Songs from Hue Manatee’s Quest.
“My folks named me Herald
My friends call me ‘Hue’
So can you”
With these words, our gentle hero Hue Manatee introduces himself to us and a new friend, the somewhat cynical but endearing itinerant musician, Flickati Cricket, who has witnessed Hue’s close call with a boat propeller. The two exchange similar accounts of run-ins with the ‘Two-legged Ones’, and share an awareness of each’s own deteriorating environment. Determined to be proactive, they decide to seek the insight and counsel of wise old Leon Chameleon, a renowned teacher and change agent.
Leon, about to depart on a long journey, invites the two young ones to accompany him, as an educational field trip, which soon develops into a global odyssey. The adventure ultimately evolves into Hue’s personal quest, re-energizes Flickati’s musical mission, and provides Leon a long-dreamed-of pilgrimage to his ancestral roots, The Galápagos.
Along the way, the peripatetic trio meet and share songs, as well as assorted perils with such charismatic characters as Whale and a Dolphin Trio; Ella Condor, Southern Hemisphere medicine woman of the Todos Tribe, and Shining Eagle, Northern Hemisphere shaman of the Imáji Nation; and finally, upon reaching their destination, the popular Galápagosian vocal quintet, Acapellago.
Durst balances the score both with original songs and some collected from several composer friends, to create a rich and varied musical experience that inspires and uplifts while conveying its message of environmental urgency.
Scene One (A Close Call & A New Friend)
When the peace of Hue‘s idyllic habitat (The Rosey Years –Pham Duy/Durst) is shattered by a close call with a boat propeller, he breaks the surface of the water to see what it was that frightened him so. On the nearby bank, wandering musician Flickati Cricket is no mute witness to the near-disaster, but rather highly agitated, vocal and accusatory. “Irresponsible Bi-peds!” she sputters.
Curious, Hue ventures to introduce himself (My Friends Call Me Hue) and the two, like many opposites, are drawn to one another. “Hue, as in ‘colorful'”, he offers, humbly. He tells his new acquaintance that he has been noticing adverse changes in his environment. Flickati nods in sympathetic knowing, allowing as how in her travels she has seen much of the wasteful disregard of the Two-legged Ones. She sings How Do They Sleep?! (Fouling Our Nest). “There must be something we can do,” agrees Hue. Flickati reveals that she has heard of a wise old being named Leon Chameleon, a revered and renowned teacher and ‘change agent.’ The two set off together to seek his counsel.
Scene Two (The Inevitability of Change)
When at last they find him, Leon is busy preparing for a long journey to the Galápagos, and pays them little mind. When pressed for answers to their questions about their changing environment, Leon is at first impatient, stressing that “change is inevitable–we must all learn to adapt.” “Easy for you to say,” remarks Flickati with a touch of sarcasm. Leon softens somewhat and elucidates with This Change Is Everything and is soon joined by his two visitors in lively song and dance. Hue wonders whether this belief is understood and shared by everyone, and Leon explains that each of us tends to have our own unique perspective on truth, which leads to variations in belief systems. But those with similar views seem to find each other in order to support one another. “Even the Two-legged Ones?” inquires Hue. “Especially them,” Leon answers emphatically, and illustrates with Mystery Loves Company.
Hue brings the subject back to his environmental concerns. Leon, it seems, has had some past contact with the Two-legged Ones, having long ago been a discarded pet. Although with the passing of time he has developed a philosophy of ‘live and let live’. More recently, however, he cannot help but be aware of bi-pedal incursion into natural habitats and their wasteful use of resources.
Leon reveals his plans to journey to the Galápagos, his ancestral homeland of which he has only heard but never seen. Recognizing an opportunity to teach once again and impart elements of his lifelong wisdom and experience to a new generation, perhaps for the last time, he invites Hue and Flickati to join him on his journey for a field trip with an agenda of collecting data and support along the way. They accept excitedly.
Scene Three (In the Imáji Nation)
Before departing, Leon takes the youngsters to meet the Northern Hemisphere shaman of the Imáji Nation, Shining Eagle, to bless their journey, who shares observations of traditional native wisdom, and sings O Blue Planet. The entire company joins in on the final refrain. Shining Eagle presents the travelers with a magic feather that, along with a healthy dose of levity, enables them to counter gravity and ascend toward their destination.
Scene Four (The Odyssey Begins)
As the peripatetic trio begins their journey, Hue asks Leon to tell them more about the Two-legged Ones. “How are they different from us beings?” he inquires. “Well, whereas we beings dwell in the eternal present,” Leon explains, “the Bi-peds seem to spend an awful lot of time in what they call the Past and the Future.” To illustrate his point, Leon conjures up a parable, materializing the spirits of the mythical Hansel & Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks to join him in singing Lost In The Kuda Shuda Woods.
Scene Five (Onward and Outward)
As the odyssey gathers steam, covering air, land and sea, the magic feather is somehow lost as the three fall precipitously toward the ocean. Rescued by Whale, they meet and share songs with a Dolphin Trio (I Am A Dolphin –Jay Mankita) whose harrowing tale is reinforced visually by multimedia support. Whale ponders the question of why man can’t leave him, a distant cousin, alone. He sings his Whale Soliloquy.
El Condor Pasa utilizes the traditional Andean music and Spanish words to support a colorful dance production to accompany the dramatic flying entrance of Ella Condor, the Southern Hemisphere medicine woman of the Todos tribe. She offers to deliver the three travelers to their destination. They climb aboard her massive back and take the sky once again. From high above the planet they observe that there are no borders (“no fronteras”) and that in fact, all are equal (“todos iguales”). She leads them in singing Somos El Barco/We Are The Boat (–Lorre Wyatt), inviting all present, including the audience, to sing along on the refrain.
CURTAIN/End of Act One
Arriving at last in the Galápagos, Leon, Flickati and Hue meet a kind of ‘street corner’ vocal quintet well-known around the islands as Acapellago. They treat the travelers to a rousing 5-part rendition of All Gaia’s Critters Got A Place in The Choir (–Bill Staines). Leon enrolls the five as associate instructors to assist him in teaching his young charges about the vital role of The Rain Forest (–Jim Scott) as the indefatigable lungs of Gaia in the interwoven tapestry of Life.
Soon Leon reveals his personal reason for wishing to visit his ancestral home, as he has been aware for a while that his time is running out on this plane of existence. Hue is distraught that Leon should be departing at this moment in Hue’s still evolving awareness. Leon explains about Life’s intrinsic characteristic of self-renewal in Cycle Song Of Life (The River Song) and reminds them to consult their inner teacher for the answers to their questions.
Buoyed with renewed self-confidence and sense of purpose, Flickati decides it’s time to take off on her own, to express herself as a fiddler/singer as a means to alert all who will hear her message of peace and environmental urgency. She sings Flickati’s Farewell to her friend Hue, which evolves into Friends Don’t Say Goodbye, supported by the gathered ensemble.
Dusk settles over them, and the evening star appears. Hue is the first to notice and softly begins to sing Starlight Star Bright. He’s joined one by one, leading into the closing strains, fully and harmoniously sung by all present, as darkness envelops the company and the starlit heavens sparkle over one and all a canopy of incandescent hope and calm.
THE CHARACTERS (in order of appearance)
Hue Manatee Docile, gentle, sensitive, vegetarian adolescent/young adult male manatee with a positive, ever-hopeful outlook–a kind of sea-going Candide. Innocent, curious, intelligent but humble.
Storyteller/Bard (Optional) Mature presence engages audience á la Our Town‘s Stage Manager. Member of the band.
Flickati Cricket: Hue’s new best friend and traveling companion; somewhat cynical, yet endearing female fiddler/singer (adolescent/young adult) with a bit of an attitude. A musician facing a crisis of direction and purpose.
Leon Chameleon, C.A.: Renowned teacher and change agent, mentor to Hue and Flickati, kind of an amalgam of Yoda, Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss and actor-comedian/musician Jimmy Durante.
Shining Eagle: Northern Hemisphere shaman of the Imáji Nation. Regal, wise yet lighthearted.
Hansel & Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood & Goldilocks: Cameo appearances by mythical characters to illustrate Leon’s parable, Lost In The Kuda Shuda Woods.
Dolphin Trio (‘Trio Life’): Female singers, or Soprano, Alto & Tenor
Whale: Male bass-baritone
Ella Condor: Medicine woman of the Southern Hemisphere Todos tribe. A wise crone.
Acapellago (Galápagosian ‘street corner’ quintet): Consists of 5 previously listed cast members differently costumed. An array of appropriate mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles.
THE BAND: Piano/Keyboard, Drums/Percussion, Bass, Guitar/s, Horn/s. ADDITIONAL CHORAL SINGERS are optional to provide a kind of ‘Green Chorus.’
Male Adolescent/Young Adult: Hue Manatee
Female Adolescent/Young Adult: Flickati Cricket (Singer/fiddler)
Mature Male: Leon Chameleon
Bass-baritone: Whale, Acapellago & Manatee family
Tenor: Shining Eagle, Hansel, Dolphin, Acapellago & Manatee family
Mezzo-soprano: Dolphin, Little Red Riding Hood, Acapellago & Manatee family
Alto: Ella Condor, Gretel, Dolphin, Acapellago & Manatee family
Soprano: Goldilocks, Dolphin, Acapellago & Manatee family