Water Wonder by Cheryl McNamara
Artwork by Carousel Players.
Eleven-year-old Richard is feeling a little friendless and insecure about his love for the woods near his home. He can’t even get the Cardinal to eat from his hand. His best friend Tyler would rather destroy things than appreciate them. Richard must also contend with his nerves. He never believed that the woods were haunted, until he and Tyler see a mysterious old woman in the woods.
Richard asks his older sister, Stacey for advice on saving his friendship with Tyler. Stacey articulates what he hates to admit. Tyler is the only friend he has.
Richard returns to the only friend he’s got left: the woods. He encounters a charming businessman named Spark who tells him of his plans to transform the woods into “Wonder Water” - a state-of-the-art water processing plant.
Shocked that his favourite place is about to be destroyed, Richard begins a journey of discovery and empowerment. On a quest to find out just what makes the brook in his wood taste so good, Richard consults once again with his sister who, through a string exercise that Tyler also participates in, teaches him about interconnectivity and resiliency.
Richard runs to Spark, to tell him the good news. Unimpressed, Spark sticks firmly to his plans and advocates for the wonders of the modern age. The mysterious woman pays them both a visit, and Richard finds a surprising ally in her.
The mysterious woman convinces Richard to appeal to the Mayor who can stop development of the plant. Richard goes to the Mayor, hopeful he will change her mind, but she is too busy to think about the importance of nature or spend quality time with her own grandson, Tyler. She intimates that farmers are also concerned about the proposed plant but dismisses their fears as overblown.
Richard returns to the woods and laments why they can’t be left alone. The mysterious woman, who introduces herself as Terra, talks to him about his deep connection with the woods, and shows him the remnants of a fort the Mayor built as a child, telling him that she once made an important promise in the woods. When birds sound an alarm, Terra tells Richard that the Mayor and Spark are on their way to where they are. They hide and Terra disappears. The Mayor and Spark arrive to discuss concerns about Wonder Water. The Cardinal appears, reminding the Mayor of the time she spent in the woods as a child. Richard and the Cardinal learn that the Mayor is the deciding vote in City Council to green-light the project.
Richard comes up with a plan. He tricks Tyler and the Mayor to meet in the woods. Tyler convinces his grandmother to stay, prompting her to reminisce about her childhood and connect with her grandson. Richard eventually joins them, and his ploy is revealed. The Mayor is presented with a choice to either stay and enjoy her time with her grandson or return to Council to vote in support of Wonder Water. After a difficult decision, and a reminder of the promise she once made to keep the woods safe, the Mayor decides to return to Council to vote against the water plant. The boys renew their friendship and rush off to watch the vote.
The next day, Spark visits the woods to say goodbye to his Wonder Water dream. Richard greets him and speaks to him about learning from nature to develop innovative products. Curious, Spark asks Richard how to begin. Richard invites Spark to sit with him and listen. The Cardinal joins them.
First Produced: 2016 at the Toronto Fringe Festival, St. George the Martyr Church (outdoors), Toronto, ON
Keywords: Nature, environment, YPT, youth activism