The Empress of China learns about a wonderful bird in her garden and demands the bird perform that evening in court. When Miss Nightingale appears, everyone is disappointed by her drab, gray appearance. However, she makes up for it with her beautiful birdsong which even moves the Empress to tears. She decides to have a silver cage built, to keep the bird forever. Just then a gift is received from Japan -- a marvelous, jewel-studded mechanical bird which sings its own mechanical tune. With the attention on the new gift, Miss Nightingale steals away, back to the freedom of her beloved forest. When learning Miss Nightingale left without permission, the Empress banishes the bird with the threat of death if she ever returns. Years go by, and the mechanical bird slowly wears out beyond repair. The Empress grows ill, but before Death can take her away, the life-giving song of Miss Nightingale is heard once more. So taken by beauty of the song, Death retires to her own garden. The Empress is restored to health, and Miss Nightingale sings on. Based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen.
PLAYWRIGHT WALT VAIL
TALKS ABOUT "MISS NIGHTINGALE"
Q: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS PLAY?
A: Writing for young and family audiences is challenging. I like to try to meet the challenge.
Q: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART OR LINE IN THE PLAY? WHY?
A: My favorite moment is when the court characters first hear, then see the Nightingale.
Q: WHERE DO THE CHARACTERS COME FROM? ARE THEY BASED ON PEOPLE YOU KNOW?
A: In my opinion, every character I attempt is part of me. I have to internalize a character before I can write it. I can hear the voices speaking in my head, and then I know I'm ready to write down the dialogue.
Q: WHAT DID YOU TRY TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS PLAY?
A: This story is about the beautiful things in life, such as the song of a bird, that makes you want to live forever. I tried to make my audience feel and hear that beauty.
Q: ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO ADD?
A: An actress friend of mine told me that her first experience of literature was hearing this story. She has never forgotten it. I hope some other child will have a similar experience from this play.