Note from Martha Ross (Dramaturge)

In the last few years I’ve become obsessed with stories about animals that come into city environments and display uncharacteristic and often aggressive behaviour.  Like the deer that recently jumped through a bar window in Oshawa and stayed for several hours.  Or the many reports about bears that invade people’s homes. Or sometimes they take over whole towns for days on end. Or the bald eagles on the West Coast that I’ve observed attacking and eating seagulls.  The lack of salmon has made these attacks much more common.  And also, on our many trips across the country, John and I have noticed animals loping beside our car as if they are trying to tell us something.   Creatures have been on my mind.

So that got me wondering:  What would animals say to us if they could?  Which led me to the idea, what would they sing about?  So I suggested to John that he write a song cycle with different animals singing about how their world is changing.

This idea got John thinking that you could put the animals into a cave setting and it would be like a nightclub where they are having a cabaret. So John got in touch with Tomson Highway and asked him if he wanted to write the lyrics for his music. But Tomson asked a good question: why are the animals in the cave?

Then John and Tomson got talking about other things, as one does, about expulsion myths like the Garden of Eden story, and the concept of being kicked out of paradise.   And then they got talking about how lately they have become so aware of forest fires.  John often works at the Caravan Farm Theatre in the interior of BC and every summer the fires get more intense. Tomson’s home in northern Manitoba is also threatened every year by enormous fires. Tomson came up with the idea that we needed:  The animals are in the cave because they are escaping a large forest fire.  They have been kicked out of their paradise and while becoming increasingly aware of their doom they sing about their lives.