ANNA LARSON, composer

Youfoe Trilogy

for children's voices, instruments, & piano

Plot summaries of the The Youfoe Trilogy musical plays

In addition to humor and whimsy, these plays have serious themes. The first play is about the role of emotion in our lives and its relationship to our developing capacity for good judgement. It recognizes the necessity of sounding out our deepest desires, what Sandberg called "a rich, warm wanting", to find our identity.

The second play raises questions about how to deal with conflicting interests and anger, and it shows how they can be overcome through caring and determination.

The third play focuses on the ability to evaluate, to find one's own capacity for sound judgement, and to find that part of ourselves that can connect meaningfully with others, even with those whom we perceive as being different.

Anybody may play the Youfoes and other parts, without affecting the themes and story line. Each play contains a mini talent show, parts of which can vary from production to production. Only plays 2 and 3 are performed with intermission.

Theresa and the Youfoes

(About 60 min., no intermission)

The proud little town of Appleville is preparing for its annual Picnic and Talent Show as they heartily sing "The Picnic Song". Their bountifulness is expressed by Mrs. Delante, the town character, and Mrs. Pink, singing "The Song of the Enthusiastic Cooks". All is fun and gaiety, and no one understands why Teresa is so sad and grumpy, especially as her parents express their love and frustration in "The Parents Song". With the verbose mayor as MC, various talent acts take place.

Just as the fun gets underway, six comical little space creatures, known as Youfoes, descend from the sky into the small town of Appleville, which is happily preparing for its annual picnic and talent show. The Youfoes, invisible to the earthlings, are barely kept in check by their officious leader, Youfoe 1, who carries the "control stick". Since all feelings, including happiness, are against the law on Megamoon, Youfoe 6, the most volatile, is dazzled by the dancing and singing of the talent show. He wanders unseen among the performers trying earnestly to imitate what they do. He hears Teresa sing, and even though her performance shows her to be curiously sour ("Once there Was a Pretty Maid who Never Smiled"), he passionately wants to learn to sing. But to become involved with the "earth creatures", or even to make oneself visible, is strictly against the rules of the Megamoon Interstellar Travel Agency Tour on pain of being subjected to the dreaded punishment Discombooperation, which destroys the memory.

Teresa, on the other hand, despite being surrounded with love and music, is chronically discontent, longing to be somewhere else, or someone else ("Why am I not happy?"). "The Parent's Song" shows how her parents have tried. Youfoe 6 decides he will risk all, and with a gesture ("Zap!") he makes himself visible to Teresa and demands a singing lesson, magically turning all the townspeople into slow-motion zombies until he gets his way. The first moments of the subsequent singing lesson, where Youfoe 6 squawks and squeaks and gets progressively worse is a favorite among younger audiences. Soon he improves, and they end with a beautiful duet. This encounter changes them both. Youfoe 6 begins to learn "who he is" by listening to his own heart; whereas Teresa, terrified at first for the safety of her family and friends, learns to appreciate her world and her capabilities. She is totally delighted by the Youfoes and ultimately finds herself in the paradoxical role of teaching them how to smile and laugh and sing. Appalled by all this merriment, Youfoe 1 wields the control stick, threatening them with Discombooperation, but he is overcome by Youfoe 6. All the Youfoes, even Youfoe 1, are swept into the final dance, "The Megamoon Rock". The Youfoes make Youfoe 6 their leader and set off for Megamoon to try to reform the rest of the planet.

The Return of Youfoe 6

(About 70 min., one intermission)

One year later, the talent show is again underway, and its main organizer, Teresa, is now cheerful and strong as she sings "The Smile Song" about the special secret that makes her glow from within. The Youfoes, in their attempts to reform Megamoon, have created "Miniburb 6", an enclave where emotion is allowed. However, they have begun to experience the conflict that desires can bring, and Youfoe 6 has brought the group back to Teresa for advice. Since their last visit, the Youfoes have been monitoring earth T.V. for pointers, so when they make their appearance back on earth, they have taken on various T.V. personas: a "Lucy", a hippie, a French chef, a football player, and a talk show host. They immediately launch into their separate enthusiasms, begin to collide, and end up in a flailing pile on the floor.
Soon after, they encounter an earth family, the Slates, who fight bitterly among themselves. Billy Slate endlessly ridicules his sister, Katherine, and is taught a major lesson when Youfoe 6 impulsively turns him temporarily into a half-turkey and sends him gobbling off to his cool friends to be on the receiving of some ridicule. The song "You are My Brother", sung by Katherine and Billy, portrays the moment of reaching out where there has been hurtfulness.
Through the intervention of Youfoe 6, the Slate parents are also exposed, causing the townspeople to instruct them with the song "When I Get Mad" about how to express anger without hurting anyone. Youfoe 1, having turned hostile, tries to subvert the earth talent show. Dodi, Teresa's dog, tries to divert him, but it is Youfoe 6 who foils his attempt. The talent show takes place, with the now-confident Katherine doing a beautiful dance. Through flattery, Youfoe 1 is reconverted to the cause, and the Youfoes, having shed their T.V. personas (for Teresa says she likes them just as they are), perform the vaudevillian showstopper they have created for their Miniburb 6 talent show. The Youfoes return to Megamoon to pursue their happiness crusade. At this point, the only ones in Appleville who have seen (or remember) the Youfoes are Teresa, Katherine, Billy and the dog, Dodi, who has chewed the control stick to a pulp.

Megamoon Rescue

(About 85 min., one intermission)

Another year has passed. Teresa and Katherine are hoping the Youfoes will appear again at the time of the talent show. The moment Youfoe 6 staggers in, alone and lost, we realize that he is the victim of the dreaded "Discombooperation". As the talent show is beginning, Dodi is leaps and barks, for, having consumed the control stick, he has the power to see the Youfoes even before they make themselves visible to the children. The Youfoes have brought Youfoe 6 to earth desperately hoping to restore his memory. When this fails, they implore Teresa to return to Megamoon with them to represent Miniburb 6 in a grand trial before the Youfoe King. Teresa's song, "Must I Choose", shows the process and the uncertainty of making that difficult decision. Her answer is yes, and Katherine, Billy (now assured he won't be turned into a turkey) and Dodi will go with her.
They enter the spaceship and blast off for Megamoon, landing moments later in the middle of Miniburb 6. Translator circuits are placed on each of them, even Dodi, who startles everyone by beginning to talk. They watch, in hiding, as two Youfoes in tutus, as yet unaware of the Youfoe King's great threat to Miniburb 6, happily rehearse a number Swan Lake for their talent show. (They've been watching PBS.) Then, some Miniburb extremists, who have have taken the business of "wanting" a bit too far, parade through singing "Wanna, Wanna". These Megamoon Youfoes are shocked to see the children, even though they are by now quite used to monitoring earth T.V.
Meanwhile, the cowardly Youfoe 1 has vacillated again. To save his own skin, he has become a petty official of the Youfoe King's guard. For the benefit of one pathetic initiate, he proudly reenacts the moment when he (inadvertently) Discombooperated Youfoe 6, then lost him, and then began the official search for him on behalf of the Youfoe King. Spotting the earthlings, Youfoe 1 swoops in and arrests Youfoes 2-6, the children, and the dog, and he marches them off to the Trial of Miniburb 6.
In the great chamber of the Youfoe King, the Youfoe Council declaims how it relies on the King for all judgments, and then, to a great fanfare, the King, a large structure-like creature, is wheeled in. After an absurd series of questions to Teresa, she is declared guilty of three absurd crimes, "judgmentis singulosis" (thinking for herself), "omni-ignorimossity" (not knowing everything), and "precipitous emotionisis" (indulging in emotion). She is asked to enter the Grand Discombooperation Circle. Requesting a last song before having her memory destroyed, she sings "Once there was a Pretty Maid Who Never Smiled", the very song she first taught to Youfoe 6. A second voice is heard, and to everyone's astonishment, Youfoe 6 has come to life and is singing the duet with Teresa. The King immediately commands that Youfoe 6, the "real culprit", enter the Discombooperation Circle. There follows a process of inquisition by the King calculated to tear down Youfoe 6's confidence and self-esteem. Seeing him falter, Terresa jumps into the circle, to the protests of her friends, and begins to defend Youfoe 6. She too begins to falter, causing Katherine to join in, then Billy, then Dodi. Soon, all are collapsed in a heap, unable to answer, beaten down by the questions and the persistent Discombooperation Rhythm. The King reiterates that they know nothing of any importance, when Teresa's quiet voice is heard: "The quality of mercy is not strained… " The King shouts that this is not knowledge. Katherine, Billy, and Dodi join in, quoting poetry, some nonsense verses and, as the King gets more outraged and confused, they start to tell jokes. The King begins to make strange noises and mispronunciations, sputtering and twanging like a machine breaking down. Seeing the Council huddling around the King trying to fix him, he children realize that the King is actually a computer, and they redouble their efforts, firing one-liners at him like artillery. This climaxes in a rousing chorus of Humpty Dumpty, which causes the King to explode, pieces of him flying in all directions. The Council run to the side and huddle in fear. Just as they realize their triumph over the Youfoe King, they are horrified to see the lifeless Youfoe 6 still lying on the floor. They pull him to his feet, but he cannot stand. When asked if he knows who he is, he says "I'm no good!". Supporting and rocking him, the group sings "You Are a Beautiful Soul", during which Youfoe 6's expression changes to one of pleasure. As the last notes are sounded, the group steps back, Youfoe 6 stands on his own, fully recovered and remembers all that has transpired. The ecstatic Youfoes hail him once again as their leader, and they immediately ask his advice on what to do with the terrified Council. The Council pleads that they thought they were doing the right thing for Megamoon. Youfoe 6 believes them, and the Youfoes befriend the astonished Council. Suddenly seeing Youfoe 1 trying to sneak away, all agree that he is another matter altogether. The Youfoes and the children hurl insults at him, "liar", "turn-coat", "snake-in-the-grass", and soon they are loudly chanting, "2 - 4 - 6 - 8, let us Discombooperate!". Finally, they turn to Youfoe 6 for a decision. He steps aside and sings "The Decision Song", arriving at the answer "No". No to revenge. By now Youfoe is so disgraced and ashamed that he is begging for the punishment. Youfoe 6 announces that his punishment is that he will NOT be Discombooperated, that he must live with the memory of his cowardly deeds. Teresa approaches him and says "You need a friend. He asks, "What's a friend?". This introduces the final song, "Friends" which, interspersed with dialogue, keeps returning to the determined refrain, "Friends, friends, we're different, but we're friends."
Youfoe 6 puts Youfoe 5 in charge and readies to take the children home. Farewells and thankyous are exchanged, Teresa is given a Megamoon Blue Stone, and she gives the Youfoes the flowers she brought from earth. During the spaceship ride home, the children speculate about the consequences of confiding their adventure to their parents, knowing it will bring trouble. Youfoe 6 lets her keep a translator circuit. Back on earth the children are deeply moved to be home. Teresa lets her parents know she has something to tell them, but after the picnic. Don't forget they admonish. "Don't worry, I won't forget!" she replies. The play ends with the joyous "Picnic Song".
After bows, the entire cast performs the rousing M.I.T.A.T song and dance from the second play.

Theater workshop gets youngsters into the act. (1995, Aug 01). The Washington Post


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