World Premiere

The Scarlet Ibis

January 8-11, 13-14, 16-17, 2015 at HERE's Mainstage Theatre

In North Carolina, in 1912, a boy was born so sickly that no one expected him to live. But he did. Only…he can’t walk normally. He just scoots backwards “like a doodlebug,” so Brother nicknames him Doodle. Brother has to lug Doodle everywhere in a red wagon that Daddy builds. Brother wants Doodle to walk and run like a regular kid, whatever it takes. He’s sick of having to watch over a “cripplerunt” all the time. One summer day, a scarlet ibis appears in the bleeding tree behind the family house. The boys’ fates are intertwined with this exotic tropical bird blown far off course. As war rages half a world away, Brother and Doodle fight their own battle.


Inspired by the 1960 short story by James Hurst, The Scarlet Ibis is a family opera about brotherhood, illness, and the power of the imagination to soar above physical limitations. This world premiere by composer Stefan Weisman (Darkling) and librettist David Cote fuses singers, puppetry, and multimedia stagecraft to tell the story of a remarkable disabled boy whose older brother pushes him to be “normal.” Set in rural North Carolina a century ago, The Scarlet Ibis contrasts notions of physical wholeness versus mystical otherness. Episodic and expressionistic, the narrative draws on elements of Southern Gothic, boy’s adventure, and domestic tragedy. OBIE Award-winning director Mallory Catlett stages the premiere, and Steven Osgood conducts the American Modern Ensemble in a nine-member configuration.


Inspired by the short story “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst, first published in the July 1960 edition of The Atlantic Monthly


Commissioned and developed through the HERE Artist Residency Program (HARP) and Dream Music Puppetry Program


Co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects & HERE


Produced in association with American Opera Projects


Photos by Cory Weaver.



Eric S. Brenner

Hai-Ting Chinn

Abigail Fischer

Nicole Mitchell

Keith Phares


Eric Avery

Josh Rice

Meghan Williams