April 24th, 2008
From Playbill News comes a little story that caught my eye. It talks of a reading of a new haunted lighthouse musical, Whisper House, by librettist Kyle Jarrow and Tony Award-winning composer Duncan Sheik. A workshop on it is scheduled in Manhattan, which will culminate in a private presentation in early May. The reason it caught my attention, is that the musical was inspired by Keith Powell — associate artistic director at Stamford Center for the Arts (SCA) and founder of Delaware’s Contemporary Stage Company, who is directing the project. He brought the idea of the show to Sheik. The musical was inspired by a day trip Powell took in Maine a few years ago, when he was acting in New England. He toured some local lighthouses and heard ghost stories about the dwellings.
Hmm, perhaps he visited Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, where I functioned as a docent for several years. If we were busy and people had to wait, I’d regale the visitors with tales of local lore about haunted lighthouses, including Pemaquid, Seguin Island, Owl’s Head, Boon Island and more. If he heard my tales, it certainly inspired what sounds like a promising stage show.
The show focuses on a boy who, after his father dies in World War II, lives with his aunt in a remote, haunted lighthouse in New England. The negative, darkly comic ghosts there tell him that the Japanese lighthouse keeper is an enemy spy.
Visually, “the entire production will be very Edward Gorey-esque. Stark and dark and bare,” Powell said, adding that the music serves the story in an unconventional way, “almost like a soundtrack.”
In spring 2007 Sheik described Whisper House this way: “Basically, it’s [about] a young boy [whose] father’s killed in World War II, and the mother kind of has gone crazy, so he’s sent to live with his aunt on the coast of Connecticut. She lives in a lighthouse. And the ghosts [are] the embodiments of all his fears but also all of his desires and his confused way of making his way in this world, having lost his parents and living in this remote place that feels very haunted. I would leave it to the audience as to whether the ghosts are real or a projection of his own making. There’s a little bit of ambiguity there.
The project is commissioned by the SCA in Stamford, CT, with an eye to a possible production next October. It would certainly be great if a ghost tale I told might have inspired a musical. No way to tell, though.
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