By Karen Davis, PhD., United Poultry Concerns (UPC)
Experience life from the Chickens’ point of view in this endearing performance
"I think you should tell your readers that you
were the inspiration for the musical."
Mary Gage to UPC president Karen Davis
Praise the Egg! A New Musical is based on the bittersweet novel by prizewinning writer, Mary Gage, showing life through the eyes of chickens. The book, and now the musical, captures the drama and pathos of the chicken yard with a cast of characters that includes Prudence, Granny Black, England the cock, “X and Y” from a battery-cage hen facility, and Man and Woman, the chicken-keepers. The story of these chickens is based on a little flock of chickens Mary kept while living in Perth in Western Australia in the 1970s.
Mary Gage, who now lives in State College, Pennsylvania, is directly involved in the musical production of Praise the Egg!. She tells UPC: “The music is being written by a composer who directs Broadway musicals for kids in State College. He is casting these kids as chicks - ideal for his school, as the chicks grow so fast that a new class can do each scene. The set and costumes are being done by an artist whose paper cutouts of grass and trees will be projected huge on the backdrop. Huge hands with buckets or hoses intrude whenever Man and Woman come with the food and water.”
So how did UPC’s president, Karen Davis, “inspire” the musical performance of Praise the Egg! In an email to Karen, Mary Gage writes, “Someone alerted me to your talk about chickens in which you quoted from my book at the Yale Chicken Conference, in May 2002. This person inquired about Praise the Egg! She wanted to know the rest of the story. At that point the producer of the State Theatre invited me to put on another play, so I decided to rewrite my Australian chicken story as an American musical. Thank you!”
Here is the passage I quoted at the Yale Chicken Conference from Praise the Egg! It appears at the beginning of Chapter Two in my book Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs:
Then they all settled down in the soft green shade of the lemon tree, with each little chick taking its turn to fly up to the best and softest seat on Granny Black’s back. And while they waited for the sun to go down again, she told them about the great big world outside the chick run, or the days when she was a chick, or the story they liked telling best of all - her Miracle story about Eggs. How the broken fragments they had hatched from were once smooth, complete shapes; how every chicken that ever was had hatched out in exactly the same way; how only chooks could lay such beauties; and how every time they did, they were so filled with joy that they could not stay quiet, but had to burst into song; and how their song was taken up by England the cock and echoed by every single hen in the Run.
What led Mary Gage to write Praise the Egg! in the first place? She explains: “While working for the Festival of Perth in Australia I was given two battery hens. I put these pristine silver-legged creatures down in our scruffy run. Their eyes had never seen sunlight before and their claws never touched mud. The cock strutted over at once and crowed, and the two new hens ran for their lives. It was a sound they had never heard before. I began to think about the natural rhythm of my chooks’ lives. The book grew over my years of keeping and observing them and their way of life. It simply wrote itself.”
New Musical by Mary Gage Premiers in State College, PA. The State Theatre, Saturday April 3. 2010: 3:00pm. 7:00pm.