“Water Sings Blue” is a family-friendly play which tells a story about love, familial relationships and the things that happen at the beach. The play is based on a book of poems written by Kate Coombs.
Teresa Dayley Love, who adapted and directed the work, said the poems in Coombs’ book had beautiful imagery that inspired her. “It was very inspiring, but scary since I know the author,” Love said. “Especially since we aren’t just acting out a script; we made it into a story.”
The poems Love picked center on a day at the beach. To emphasize this, the minimalistic set had beach mats and umbrellas. The costumes, designed by Sarah Stewart, were bright and colorful with yellows and blues, suggesting even more the theme of people at a beach.
Before the play began, stage manager Britney Miles Smith and actor Logan Ruesch explained the audience participation that occurs during the performance and warned audience members to keep their appendages out of the aisles. This allowed space for the actors to perform without running into someone.
Before this, the actors introduced themselves to audience members and invited children to sit on the beach mats. This created a comfortable environment and broke the audience/actor barrier that often accompanies theatre performances.
The audience participation was a large part of this production. The actors prompted audience members to make sea creature noises and to act like waves in particular parts. Actors even picked out a few children from the audience to act in the performance.
“I’m here to make sure everyone can do the show but also that everyone is safe and it’s the same as a life guard on the beach,” Miles said.
Cast member Sierra Docken said it required her to give more of herself as an actress, constantly aware of the children, including them, knowing where they were and being flexible as children are unpredictable.
“I always thought of myself as a giving actor but when we had kids it was a whole new level of giving,” Docken said.
The cast received take-home assignment after rehearsals.
They researched ocean geography, marine animals, ocean tides, and coral formation. Fun facts they learned included the mating cycle of seahorses and that octopi have a brain for each leg. They gave presentations on terms used in Coombs’ poetry.
Docken said they observed the animals at the aquarium and swam in the wave pool at Seven Peaks to memorize the pull and push of the water.
“So when we developed the acting we could depict things accurately,” Docken said.
Della Wilkins, age 9, said that she was nervous but excited when they asked her to participate in the opening night performance. “It was really fun!” Wilkins said, before turning to autograph another child’s program.
BYU freshmen Marie Patrick from Tampa, Florida and Kate Dorny from Draper, Utah came to the play after hearing about it in a theatre class. “I didn’t know what to expect at first,” Patrick said.
Both women liked the audience participation. “It was totally cute and fun,” Dorny said.
The audience members were not the only ones who enjoyed the audience participation part of the performance.
Actress Haley Flanders, a Georgia native and graduate student at BYU, loved her first time acting in a play for young audiences. “It is so fun to interact with audiences while knowing that this is likely the first time they’ve seen a show like this,” Flanders said. “It’s funny how you come up with new things because of how the audience reacts.”
Throughout the performance, the actors used “visual comedy” to tell the majority of the story. The only spoken words in the play were directly from the poems. Because of this, comedic body movements and facial expressions were a highlight of the performance.
While the poems were beautiful, the introduction of the first poem seemed rough and out of place, contrasting sharply with the performance’s wordless beginning. However, as the play progressed, the actors settled into their characters and the words flowed seamlessly, as if it were completely normal to be speaking in poetry.
“Water Sings Blue” is an hour of poetry set in motion that sparks the soul and captures the peaceful feeling of an ocean beach perfectly.
Performances run Sept. 25 to Oct. 9 at the BYU Harris Fine Arts Center. For tickets and performance times, visit arts.byu.edu