An original folk opera written for five actor-musicians, THE GIRL FROM BARE COVE follows a family in crisis as they face the near-loss of one of their own. With songs inspired by the folk sounds of New England and a story rooted in the ghostly traditions and fairy tales of that place, this modern-day fable invites us to explore the communities we share and the worlds we build for ourselves. Or, in the opening words of our narrator: “This is the story of the girl from Bare Cove, and of her mother and her father, and of the boy she loves, and of her sister…and of the voices she hears in her head.”
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SISTER, our narrator, introduces the story and its characters: GIRL, BOY, MOTHER, and FATHER. The setting is Bare Cove, a small shipbuilding village somewhere on the New England coast (“Bare Cove”). Sister tells us of the town’s enthusiasm for its history and of its yearly celebration of that history: Founders’ Day. As the present-day descendants of one of the town’s founding families, Sister and her kin are prominent and highly visible figures in their community, and every year they are expected to play a central role in organizing the Founders’ Day festival and in reenacting the discovery of Bare Cove for the festival’s pageant.
And so the story begins. Girl has just arrived back at the family home after an unspecified stay in the hospital; seemingly alone, she laments the loss of the young man she loves: Boy (“My Medicine”).
To their horror, her family discovers that Girl will not speak and seems to be completely unaware of her surroundings.
Girl has receded into a world of her own, and she is soon lured even farther away from her family and from reality by a group of VOICES who imply they might know a way to find Boy (“Blood and Water and Wine”).
Mother and Father unofficially sequester Girl in the house while they consider their position in the town (“Our American Family”) and what could be ailing their eldest daughter. Sister reflects upon her childhood memories of Girl and of Bare Cove; she remembers Girl’s last year starring in the Founders’ Day pageant opposite their cousin JUNIOR. In the face of her parents’ helplessness and Girl’s persistent silence, Sister determines that she must be the one to go after Girl and bring her back to the reality (“Bring Her Home”).
Meanwhile, in Girl’s head, she explains to the Voices how she lost Boy and why she needs to get him back; she revisits a happier time in their relationship (“Two Pilgrims”).
Back in the real world, Sister tries to get through to Girl, and she devises a plan: find the right story, find the way to bring Girl home.
In her search for Boy, Girl encounters a new voice. THE BAD VOICE taunts her: he asserts that he knows where Girl can find Boy but suggests that when she does, she may not be happy with what she finds. The Bad Voice reminds Girl that Boy left her and states that he left for a reason; Girl sends The Bad Voice away and revisits the pain of Boy leaving (“Penelope”).
Time passes, and Mother and Father take Girl to the best doctor in the state. The visit proves unhelpful, and, as they consider what options are left to them, each parent expresses their separate despair (“Doctor,” “A Simple Man”).
Sister tells Girl the story of “The Sleeping Beauty” (“Long Ago #1).
Girl becomes increasingly catatonic as she travels deeper and deeper into the spectral world of the Voices. Suddenly, the voices tell her that they can lead her no farther; in order to find Boy, Girl must travel back in her memory to her final Founders’ Day pageant (“Find the Time”). Once there, Girl finds The Bad Voice again, and he asks if she recognizes him. He claims that he’s the one she’s been looking for. Girl insists that The Bad Voice cannot be Boy, and The Bad Voice sings her a lullaby as she tries to fight through her confusion (“Don’t Say a Word”).
Mother and Father continue trying to hide Girl’s condition and wonder what the future holds for their little family. Sister tells Girl the story of “The Snow Queen” (“Long Ago #2).
Girl fights back against The Bad Voice and says he can’t frighten her (“You Don’t Know the Night”). The Bad Voice tells her Boy isn’t real; Girl says she knows. She says she also knows who The Bad Voice really is and where he’s been trying to lead her: it’s somewhere she’s been before.
As Sister prepares for another attempt to bring Girl back, we learn that Girl’s hospital stay and current state were the result of a suicide attempt—an act no one in her family can explain. The Bad Voice forces Girl to relive the final hours leading up to her attempt (“River”), pushing her to the brink; The Bad Voice wants her to try again. But, in the final hour, Sister tells Girl the one story she hasn’t already tried: their story, and Girl—ripped from her fantasy world by her Sister’s expression of desperation and pain—finally speaks.
Nearly a year passes, and Girl is doing much better: she’s seeing a therapist regularly, and she’s stopped talking to imaginary voices. The family celebrates the coming of Christmas and Girl’s good health (“A Christmas Hymn”), but Sister informs the audience that the story isn’t over yet.
On December 26 the family celebrates the start of the Founders’ Day festival with the rest of the community, and, for the first time since she spoke, Girl hears The Bad Voice. The Bad Voice asks if Girl had forgotten him and mocks her for believing that he wouldn’t come back (“Oh My Darling”). Girl has a very public relapse in front of the whole town.
As the Founders Festival continues, Girl’s mental state bas become the talk of the town. With their worst fear realized, Mother and Father affirm that the love they have for their daughter is of greater value to them than their family’s reputation in the community. They urge Girl to be strong in the face of public judgment (“You Can’t Let It Burn You”).
Girl is now straddling the divide between the world in her head and the world of her family. Suddenly, alone in her head, Girl finally hears Boy, but, while she is happy to find him, she reminds Boy that he’s not real. She made him up, invented him to be her perfect companion. Boy asks if that really matters to her; he tells her that, if she chose to, Girl could stay in this world with Boy forever, but he warns that she would never be able to see her family again (“Made for You”). Sister interrupts their conversation.
Still caught between two worlds, Girl asks if Sister is there to tell her another story. Sister, gently determined to bring Girl back to reality for good, says she’d rather hear a story from Girl; she asks whom Girl has been talking to.
Out of love for her sister, Girl starts to tell her the real story behind that final Founders’ Day performance—the one with Junior. As the story continues, it becomes clear to the audience that Girl is now telling her parents as well (“Founders’ Day”).
Mother and Father pray for the future and for the strength to help their daughter (“Not in My Home”).
Confronted with Girl’s revelation, the family reflects upon the past and on their newfound feelings of guilt, but Sister encourages them to take action rather than dwell on looking back. The family resolves to keep out of the Founders’ Day festivities this year and to spend the time together, away from Junior and the rest of their extended relatives.
Girl, relieved of her secret, reflects upon Boy’s offer. She knows that if she chooses a life with Boy that she’ll be without her family forever; she also knows that in order to truly escape the voices, she must be without Boy forever. She reflects upon her imaginary love and her fear of being alone (“Take Me to the Mountain”). Strengthened by her family’s love and support, Girl decides that she must let Boy go and choose to live with what’s real.
Sister closes out the story. She explains that while this isn’t the happiest of endings, it’s at least the hope of one. The family comes together to reaffirm their devotion to one another and to remind Girl that she’s never alone when she’s at home (“Go On”).