Photos of Throckmorton Summer Youth Ensemble rehearsing “The Water Spirit” by Rebecca Gilbert.

The pandemic has been largely disruptive, horrific and full of loss.

But with so many of activities limited or eliminated over the past two-plus years, we were able to make time to think through why we do what we do, re-think how we might be able to do it better, or launch something brand new.

For Throckmorton Theatre founder Lucy Mercer, the unexpected quiet moments of running a largely shuttered live arts venue provided the time to conceive of “The Water Spirit,” a new family musical play that explores what happens to the smallest creatures – a mouse and a rat, in this case – when drought hits a small town named Happy Valley.

Mercer took the time to think about the impact of our urban needs and the demands we place on our environment, especially here in Mill Valley where we live cheek by jowl with so much incredible nature. Mercer found plenty to ponder: “What animals are living alongside us? What happens to the water when it meets concrete? On the surface a charming fairytale, there’s a deeper message to “The Water Spirit” too about the spirit of community and what happens when it gets blocked and stymied. Where does all that energy go? How much more could we do if we let it run free?”

The play, performed by the Throckmorton Summer Youth Ensemble after a three-week summer camp, follows Rue, a young mouse needing to overcome his insecurity and find his voice, save his family from the drought and a village from conflict. Happy Valley finds itself drought-stricken and stymied, not just by concrete and pipes, but by the conflict and dysfunction among animals and the carelessness of humans.

Rue is in desperate search for water for his family in the city. He follows the dry creek bed back to Happy Valley, and reconnects with his cousin Tuff, a rat. Despite his insecurity, Rue confronts a community of animals that have forgotten how to live together. A dangerous cat rules the village streets, and an owl and fox lure Rue into the dark forest; but a loyal hound dog and a singing frog and his band help Rue to come up with a plan. Can Rue and Tuff save the village and bring the Water Spirit back to health? Can Rue find his voice? 

Carl Pantle arranged and directed the music for “The Water Spirit.” Mercer and Erika Ivey Johnson wrote the book for the musical. Lou Dockstader wrote the lyrics, LeShawn Holcomb did stage direction and Gina Chapman provided movement/choreography. Steve Coleman and Artemis Frederick did set design with help from Liz Berger. Sofi Peach, Jai Bilbo and Jules Dockstader, with help from Cedar Carter, did costume design.

Performances are July 29 at 7pm, July 30 at 7pm and July 31 at 2pm.


Want to know what’s happening around town? Click here to subscribe to the Enjoy Mill Valley Blog by Email!