“East of the Sun and West of the Moon” Features a Script by Tina Howe and Music by Mel Marvin


Raleigh Little Theatre’s Teens on Stage will kick off the community theater’s 2012-13 season with a gala presentation of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, a 1994 play by Tina Howe, with music by Mel Marvin, based on a Norwegian folk tale, on July 13-15 and 17-22 in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre.

“I discovered the script a few years ago,” recalls RLT youth theater and education director Linda O’Day Young, who will stage the show with participants in RLT‘s Teens on Stage and Teens Backstage summer conservatories.

Young adds, “I love the opportunity to explore a different culture through theatre and this delightfully rich Norwegian folktale offers that. I was also very excited that the main character is a strong young woman and not a damsel in distress.”

When the curtain rises on East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Young says:

“[It is] a cold and bitter day, [and] a White Bear (James Scalise) pounds on the door of a peasant family struggling to survive. The Bear promises the mother, Gjerd (Triona Kagan), and the father, Olav (Sam Haw), great riches if they allow their daughter Tove (Sarah Gordon) to come and live with him.

“Olav resists; but the selfish mother and four greedy children — Gunnhild (Sara Evans), Trud (Maddy Kunkel), Knut (Drew Ammons), and Einar (Ben Mygatt) — insist that she go. Realizing how much it will help her family, Tove agrees to go. Tove’s younger siblings the twins, Frid (Jessica McGee) and Froy (Henry Hopson), sadly present her with a flute by which to remember them.

“The journey to The Bear’s palace is a long one through forests with trees like cathedrals, the valley of the whales, and the graveyard of the wooly mammoth. Soon they reach The Bear’s underground palace, where she is free to explore everywhere, except for one staircase which — according to the Bear — leads to ‘pain and sorrow.’

James Scalise and Sarah Gordon will star as The Bear/Prince and Tove (photo by John Maruca)
James Scalise and Sarah Gordon will star as The Bear/Prince and Tove (photo by John Maruca)
“Tove promises, but at night she is drawn to the staircase by a young man’s voice singing an achingly beautiful and sad song. She’s determined to discover the source, but her candle goes out before she can see the young man’s face.

“Homesick, Tove requests that she be allowed to go back home for a visit. The Bear reluctantly agrees, but makes Tove promise not to talk to her mother about her life with The Bear. Tove returns to her family to discover they are living in luxury; but for some reason, her mother seems particularly curious about Tove’s new life.

***Warning: Spoilers***

          “Tove breaks her promise, and tells her mother about the forbidden staircase, the mysterious voice, and her frustration that her candle always goes out before she can see the young man’s face. Gjerd sends her back to the Bear’s palace with a lantern, and Tove is finally able to see the young man with whom she has fallen in love. He is a Prince bewitched by a Troll Princess to live as a Bear by day and a young man at night. He had only one year of his enchantment to endure, but Tove’s discovery has sealed his fate. He now belongs to the Troll Princess, and must marry her in a week in a land that’s East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Tove watches as the entranced Prince leaves the Palace.

“She vows to save him, and travels to the edge of the world, where she meets three hags (Audrey Dubois, Parker Perry, and Zoe Chester-Thompson) who give her advice and three magic items to help her reclaim her love. Boldly, she climbs to the end of the world, where she encounters the East Wind (Rachel Kanakanui), the West Wind (Wesleigh Neville), and the South Wind (Maya Hamer). But there is only one wind who can take her to her Prince, the dreaded North Wind (Owen Flaherty).

“Tove lands in a desolate place to discover a procession of Trolls headed her way. They resemble her mother, brothers, and sisters. Her father and the twins are there, yet they are prisoners. She calls out to her Prince, but he doesn’t know her. If only she could sing to him! If only he could hear her sing his song of love, perhaps that would break the spell. She offers the Troll Princess the magic gifts the Hags gave her. In return, the Troll Princess promises that Tove can sing at her wedding. But Troll promises mean nothing. After taking the gifts, the Princess attacks Tove, leaving her lying on the ground.

“When Tove awakes, she hears the Troll wedding music, and follows determined to reclaim her love. It is a Troll wedding with a Troll Photograher (Kinsey Watson), a troll Flower Girl (Alyssa Hartzheim), and a Troll Minister (Bailey Hart). Tove interrupts the ceremony, and with her voice breaks the spell that imprisons her Love and her family.”

***End of Spoilers***

          In addition to director Linda O’Day Young, the Raleigh Little Theatre creative team for East of the Sun and West of the Moon includes assistant director Jacob Snyder Timmons, musical director Yvonne Koch, technical director and scenic and lighting designer Thomas Mauney, costume designer Vicki Olson, puppet designer Judy M. Dove, sound designer/engineer Becca Easley, and stage manager Emma Caterinicchio.

Young claims, “The technical demands [of staging East of the Sun and West of the Moon] are quite immense; and we’ve had to be creative to meet them. It is essentially a journey piece, and [set and lighting designer] Thomas Mauney has designed a set of multiple abstract levels, allowing us to present a variety of locations.

“One of the exciting things is that we have added puppets created by Judy M. Dove to help create a fantasy environment,” reveals director Linda O’Day Young. “Giant butterflies flutter to form Tove’s bed, and large whales float above the audience.”

Young says, “The fantasy costumes reflect the Scandinavian culture. [Costume designer] Vicki Olson has chosen a marine theme for the trolls. The queen Mother has an ‘octopus’ look, while the Troll Princess Bride beams with a mermaid motif. The other trolls wear costumes inspired by sea creatures such as the sea urchin, the stingray, the jelly fish, and the eel.”

She adds, “This production of East of the Sun and West of the Moon is the culmination of Raleigh Little Theatre‘s Education Programs, Teens on Stage and Teens Backstage. Teens on Stage is an intensive five-week summer acting conservatory. Teens attend classes in the mornings, and rehearse in the afternoons. Students audition for admission into the program in March.

“Teens Backstage is a hands-on technical theater program in which students learn by doing as they build the set, paint scenery, hang and focus lights, find or create the props, and serve as the light and sound board operators and running crew for East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Teens interview for acceptance into the program,” says director Linda O’Day Young.

The Teens on Stage instructors include Lucius Robinson (acting/movement/clown), Staci Sabarsky (voice), Dan Sipp (improvisation), and Lauren Miller and Arianna Tysinger (teaching assistants); and the Teens Backstage instructors include Thomas Mauney (technical theater), Judy M. Dove (puppetry), and Drew Caterinicchio (teaching assistant).

Raleigh Little Theatre‘s Teens on Stage present EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON at 7:30 p.m. July 13, 1 and 5 p.m. July 14 and 15, 10:30 a.m. July 17 and 18, 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. July 19, 7:30 p.m. July 20, 1 and 5 p.m. July 21, and 1 p.m. July 22 in the Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.

TICKETS: $13 ($9 children 12 and under).

BOX OFFICE: 919/821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.

SHOW: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/12-13/eastwest.html.

PRESENTER: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/.

TEEN SUMMER CONSERVATORY PROGRAMS: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/learn/summer/teenconservatory.html.

VENUE: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/.

DIRECTIONS: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/about/map-directions.html.

PARKING: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/about/parking.html.

NOTE: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows.


The Norwegian Folk Tale: http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/eastsunwestmoon/index.html (annotated by Heidi Anne Heiner for SurLaLune Fairy Tales) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_of_the_Sun_and_West_of_the_Moon (Wikipedia).

The Play: http://www.playsforyoungaudiences.org/scripts/east-of-the-sun-and-west-of-the-moon (Plays for Young Audiences).

Script Excerpt: http://www.playsforyoungaudiences.org/wp-content/files_mf/eastofthesun_excerpt.pdf (Plays for Young Audiences).

The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tina_Howe (Wikipedia).

The Composer: http://melmarvin.com/ (official website).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at]aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).