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Nature takes center stage

Oregon Stage Works honors Southern Oregon composer and — environmental activist Michael Mish with a production of his musical fantasy, — "The Boy Who Talked to Whales," opening 8 p.m. Thursday, March 24.

Cited by many international organizations for his contribution, — Mish has composed nine musicals which deal with protecting the natural — wonders of our world, with "The Boy Who Talked to Whales" as the capstone. —

To Mish, who also serves as musical director of this production, — "The Boy Who Talked to Whales," based upon the play by the late Webster — Smalley, dramatizes a connection to nature that he considers a connection — to ourselves.

"It's why nature frightens us," Mish said. "Nature is — all about crucial parts of life, like birth and death. We don't understand — it, so we have to try to control it. In a sense, we've disenfranchised — ourselves from ourselves."

Since its world premiere in Southern Oregon ten years — ago, "The Boy Who Talked to Whales" has been produced all over the world. — According to one critic: "While this play continues to delight young people, — the marvelous music, the wit and sophistication make it a particular treat — for adult audiences."

Recorded in 1994, "The Boy Who Talked to Whales" won this — comment from Entertainment Weekly: "If music could save the world, this — music could. It's that strong."

The musical fantasy tells the story of a young boy and — girl whose efforts to save a friendly whale from hunters precipitate an — international crisis, one they must help the President of the United States — resolve.

Mish composed the music for the audio book of Neale Donald — Walsch's "Conversations With God," and his songs have been waxed by Marilyn — McCoo, John Denver, Shari Lewis and Glenn Yarbrough. His cassette, "We — Love the Animals," recently won an iParenting Media Award for best children's — audio, and "Sleepy Train," another iParenting Media Award recipient, was — also awarded the Parents' Choice Gold Award.

Making her debut as a director, Tami Marston has performed — as a singer and actress in many Southern Oregon venues, including Camelot — Theatre, Ashland Community Theatre and Rogue Music Theatre.

"There's something empowering in the story," Marston said. — "'The Boy Who Talked to Whales' tells people they can make a difference — in the world by caring, and by caring together. It invites them back into — communion with nature and also with hope, something that the frenzied, — cynical world of mass media can wipe out.

"There's something so compelling about seeing the way — children can still connect, and something so powerful in seeing them protest — what's being taken from them. As adults, we need to reawaken ourselves — to that connection and to our own nature as well."

For both Marston and Mish, the song of the whale, which — plays a key part in the musical, is a potent sign of the values the play — explores.

"The sounds convey a feeling of wisdom," Marston said. — "Some kind of deeper understanding that we, as humans, just aren't getting — yet."

"The sound is dreamy, evocative," Mish said. "It's a language — without words that goes straight to your heart." "It's a mystery - one — that we fear and are drawn to."

Original choreography for "The Boy Who Talked to Whales" — was created by Audrey Flint, a prize-winning Southern Oregon choreographer. —

The cast of "The Boy Who Talked to Whale" features young — actors from the Rogue Valley, including Dashiel Moyers, who recently appeared — in Camelot Theatre's "Carnival," and Meghan McCandless, who just completed — a run in "Our Town" at OSW and starred in the locally produced film "Indigo." —

Other cast members include Chris Phillips, Amanda Murphy — a Humboldt State University graduate, Azalea Micketti, and Natasha Carol — Barnes who has acted with OSF, Actor's Theater and Ashland Middle School. — Also appearing is Joel Handley, last seen on OSW's stage in "A Christmas — Carol," and Merrill Smith, a veteran of music theater. Rounding out the — cast is singer Priscilla Quinby whose credits include "The Secret Garden" — and "Meet Me in St. Louis" on Broadway.

Quinby co-starred with Petulah Clark and David Cassidy — in the national tour of "Blood Brothers."

"The Boy Who Talked to Whales" will run at 8 p.m. - at — OSW's Main Stage, next to the A Street Market Place on the corner of A — and Oak streets - Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays through — April 24. Tickets are $17 ($10 for students) at the Music Coop. Previews, — held at 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, March 22 and 23, are $10. For more — information and reservations, call 482-2334 or visit www.oregonstageworks.org.