Pine Barrens

Text by Greg Giovanni
Music by Richard Emmert

Pine Barrens is a fifth-category demon piece which deals with the legends of an evil monster said to reside in the pine barrens of New Jersey.

Two witches travel to the desolate New Jersey pine barrens to hunt for a comrade who disappeared there while practicing their sacred art. When they arrive, a young boy appears from out of the swamp and warns the witches of the evil that lurks there. The chorus for him sketches the story of a 13th child born to a Mrs. Leeds, a son who was unwanted, and in a fit of desperation, promised to the devil by his mother. The young boy disappears into a nearby grave mound without fully revealing himself. A humorous interlude ensues in which three mosquitoes discuss “eating” the witches and sing more about the demon monster into which Mrs. Leeds young son grew. In the second half, the demon appears and fights with the two witches who struggle to fend him off with their protecting amulets. In the end, the demon flies off, defeated this time, but knowing that there will be others in the future who will become his prey and fulfill his own quota of souls to the devil.

The play has a structure quite similar to several plays in the classical Japanese noh repertoire. Its use of witches who fight off a demon is reminiscent of plays such as Aoinoue, Kurozuka or Dojoji in which Buddhist priests chant sutras and rub rosaries in order to fight off a demoness. In Pine Barrens as well as in these classical demon plays, the demons/demonesses are not necessarily defeated but rather are driven off. Evil is never completely vanquished but instead is weakened and forced to flee until it raises its ugly head another day.

Theatre Nohgaku rehearsed Pine Barrens for the first time in August 2004 then August 2005 in Bloomsburg PA. Pine Barrens premiered fall of 2006 at the North Carolina School of the Arts.

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