‘The Nightingale’ delights audiences of all ages

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The narrator (Cosette Hatch) playfully interacts with the audience as the emperor (Jordan Nicholes) speaks to the glorious general (Clayton Cranford). (Photo by Mark A. Philbrick.)
The narrator (Cosette Hatch) playfully interacts with the audience as the emperor (Jordan Nicholes) speaks to the glorious general (Clayton Cranford). (Photo by Mark A. Philbrick)

Actors, dancers and directors collaborated together to bring Hans Christian Andersen’s story of “The Nightingale” to life. BYU’s theater for young audiences produced a stage adaptation of the tale that delighted audiences of all ages.

“When I read the story I love it,” said Julia Ashworth, artistic director for young company shows, as well as the co-director of this piece. “It’s a simple, sweet, beautiful story that has a lot of nice symbolism that’s accessible for kids.”

The themes of friendship and true beauty are interwoven through the original dance and music of the production. In preparation for the production the cast spent two weeks in China, where they fostered relationships with Chinese elementary schools and learned from the esteemed Peeking Opera.

“It gave us the opportunity as a cast to grow together,” said junior Cosette Hatch, who played the role of the narrator in the production. “We were able to be unified in a way that many casts are able to,” Hatch said.

The cast found that their time in China helped them appreciate the beauty of this piece and give it new life.

“It was really inspiring,” said Nicole Dugdale from Carthage, Mo., who played the nightingale in the production. “We gained a lot of inspiration from the ancient Chinese sites.”

The nightingale (Nicole Dugdale) dances for the people of the emperor's palace. (Photo by Mark A. Philbrick.)
The nightingale (Nicole Dugdale) dances for the people of the emperor’s palace. (Photo by Mark A. Philbrick)

The play tells the story of an emperor who lives in a porcelain palace. He sends his high lord chamberlain and glorious general on a journey to find the beautiful nightingale. When they return with the nightingale it is valued and admired. But when a neighboring emperor brings a mechanical nightingale, the bird is neglected and returns to the woods from where she came.

When the emperor is approached with death the bird returns and offers her true friendship. One of the themes the show teaches the audience is to not be confused by glitter and show. A true voice and a gentle heart are all one will ever need.

“We’ve really tried to carry this idea of beauty into our production,” Ashworth said, “both visual and aesthetic beauty as well as thematic beauty.”

The actors also learned about having an open mind when discovering and performing a show.

“I learned a lot about being open and trying whatever comes to your head,” Hatch said. “We all learned to let our artistic instincts flow and if it came out bad we could alter it, but if it was good we would keep it.”

The collaboration between dance and acting was evident and provided for a delightful experience for all ages, both old and young, while teaching a valuable message of the importance of friendship. BYU’s “Nightingale” last shows will be Saturday, Oct 12., at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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