Lucy

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Music by John Glover

Libretto by Kelley Rourke

 

Based on the true story of Maurice Temerlin

and the chimpanzee “Lucy” he raised from birth.

 

“. . . Lucy, a presentation of the always-interesting UrbanArias, opened for a four-performance run at H Street’s Atlas Performing Arts Center on Saturday with baritone Andrew Wilkowske as Temerlin, and Wilkowske nailed it, mostly because he is as nuanced an actor as he is a singer.” – Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post
Click here to read the full review

“A most remarkable thing happens during Lucy. The character of Lucy comes to seem completely real. We get to know her and see her first through Maurice, of course, but at some point during the show – through the artful confluence of libretto, score, performance, and design – Lucy becomes real on her own. So much so that when she dies, so has a tragic heroine.” – John Stoltenberg, DCMetroTheaterArts
Click here to read the full review

“UrbanArias has gone wild! The company that pushes boundaries, reconceiving opera that is short, smart and fast, has given us an opera about a chimpanzee . . . Glover and Wilkowske give us one glorious full-out aria about Lucy seen in her natural setting, ‘a thing of great beauty and dignity.’ Beginning with toy piano, then strings and piano, the music moves us into something as spacious and limpid as Debussy or a flowing ballet.” – Susan Galbraith, DCTheatreScene
Click here to read the full review

Lucy Excerpt – Natural Setting from UrbanArias on Vimeo.

Images by Teresa Wood Photography

 

BACKGROUND: THE STORY AND ADAPTATION

The Scenario

In 1964, psychologist Maurice Temerlin and his wife Jane adopted a day-old chimpanzee to whom they gave the name Lucy. Their intention, wrote Temerlin, was to raise Lucy “as much as possible as though she were a human being.” Temerlin’s account of the experience, Lucy: Growing Up Human, tells how his “daughter” learned to dress herself, eat with silverware, use the toilet, make tea for guests, look at magazines, communicate through sign language, keep a pet of her own, and enjoy cocktails. In addition to considering how Lucy is affected by her “human” upbringing, he reports on how his “unusual daughter” affects the other members of the household, especially himself.

Even with her extensive repertoire of human behavior and her obvious affection for the Temerlins, Lucy remained, biologically, a chimpanzee—an animal of considerable physical strength with relatively limited impulse control. A decade into their experiment, the Temerlins began to look for a way to transfer Lucy out of their household. Eventually they decided that a chimpanzee rehabilitation center in Gambia would provide the best environment for Lucy to live out her remaining years. (Chimpanzees can live up 50 years.) University of Oklahoma psychology graduate student Janis Carter accompanied Lucy to the center to assist her transition, but the process was difficult; Lucy showed many signs of depression, including refusal to eat.

Several years later, Janis Carter returned to the Center and was greeted by Lucy and a group of chimps. After embracing Carter, Lucy left with the other chimps without turning back, which Carter interpreted as Lucy having assimilated to life as a chimp.

One year later, Carter returned and found Lucy’s skeleton with hands missing and head separated from the rest of the body, and no sign of skin or hair. Based on these signs, she concluded that Lucy had fallen victim to poachers.

The Work
Actual events described in Temerlin’s memoir serve as a starting point for Lucy, a fictional memory play in which we meet Temerlin alone in his office, some decades after he made the decision to bring Lucy into his home. As he struggles to hold on to memories of a happy, if unconventional, family life, documentation from the “cross-fostering” project both supports and challenges his efforts.

Lucy is a one-act monodrama for baritone and chamber ensemble. While Lucy’s presence is summoned in sound and story, the baritone is the only live primate in the piece.

More Information
In early 2010, Lucy’s life-story was the subject of a 1-hour Radiolab episode, “Radiolab Show 702 – Lucy”.

You can click this link to listen to the fascinating podcast.

STARRING

Andrew Wilkowske as Maurice Temerlin

Conducted by Robert Wood

Directed by Erik Pearson

Set and Costume Design by Michael Locher

Lighting Design by Burke Brown

 

LIBRETTO

Click here to read the libretto of LUCY

LUCY is produced in part with generous funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Capitol Hill Community Foundation.

LUCY was commissioned by Milwaukee Opera Theater, world premiere November 7-9, 2014,
and developed by American Opera Projects and Nautilus Music Theater