Composer: Neil Weisensel
Composer Bio: Neil Weisensel is a composer and conductor based in Winnipeg, Canada. His six operas, which have been critically and popularly acclaimed, have been performed across Canada, and he receives commissions, awards and prizes from arts organizations in Canada and the U.S. Mr. Weisensel has composed and arranged music for feature films, stage works, documentaries, and animation for networks including the CBC, Bravo!, and CTV. Composing in a wide variety of genres, including jazz, rock, ethno-cultural, and world beat, he has also performed and recorded with artists such as Michael Buble, Russill Paul, Noirin Ni Riain and Brian Tate, and with vocalist Rachel Landrecht for luminaries such as Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Neil is equally at home composing for the concert hall, opera, and dance. Internationally, he has produced music for large-scale multi-media installations such as the German pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany. Also in 2000 he garnered a Genie nomination in the Best Song category for work on the theme music to the feature film Here's To Life, which he co-wrote with Michael Bublé. Neil has received grants, awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (U.S.), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Manitoba and British Columbia Arts Councils, and the Banff Centre for the Arts, among others. His concert music and stage works have been performed by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Opera Lyra Ottawa, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Vancouver New Music, the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra, Edmonton Opera, Vancouver Opera, the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra, and Edmonton’s Hammerhead Consort. Neil lives in Winnipeg, Canada with wife Rachel and daughter Miracle.
Librettist: Shane Koyczan
Librettist Bio: Shane Koyczan is one of the world’s premier spoken word performers. His book, Visiting Hours, was hailed as a Books of the Year Selection by The Guardian (UK) and the Globe and Mail (Canada) newspapers. Shane was featured in Quill & Quire magazine in May 2006. Born and raised in northwestern Canada, Shane was the first poet from outside the USA to win the prestigious USA National Individual Poetry Slam. He has performed to full houses around the world - from university amphitheaters to the most respected music and literary festivals. He has rocked the stage at the Edinburgh Book Festival, the Vancouver International Writers Festival, the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the 2007 Canada Day Celebrations in Ottawa. Listen to Shane’s poem for Canada entitled ‘We Are More‘ (commissioned by the Canadian Tourism Commission) or watch him perform it on Vancouver’s Spanish Banks. Acclaim for Shane’s poetry and performance has come from many diverse and respected sources - from renowned rockers Gordon Downey, Joel Pott & Dave Bidini to David Robinson, Literary Editor of The Scotsman, and Patrick Neate, winner of the Whitbread Prize and host of London’s Bookslam.
Premiere Date: October 23, 2014
Description: ACT I
A group of students in a playground gather around a ten year old boy who is being beaten by another. An old man steps in and stops the fight, sharing with the boy his own wartime experience.  He then takes the boy home to his grandmother's house. The grandmother comforts the boy and the three sit together and talk.

Later, on the playground, the boy is attacked by the same boy, Chris. The bell sounds and the boy heads to  his locker, finding it covered in graffiti. A janitor comes to clean it and tells the boy that perhaps if he lost some weight, he wouldn't be bullied.

In the classroom, students taunt the boy. The teacher accuses the boy of provoking them. The boy is summoned to the principal's office but refuses to say who has defaced the locker. He denies having trouble with other students.

At detention, Chris sits behind the boy, calling him names and kicking his seat. The boy asks Chris why he does this. Chris answers, "Because", and resumes kicking.

In his bedroom at home, the boy punches the wall. His grandmother hears the commotion and slips a note under the door, asking if he's going to come out. The boy writes back that he's not, but asks his grandmother to stay. The grandmother sings to the boy from behind the door.

Three years later
At school, three boys wrestle the boy to the ground. A teacher breaks up the fight. One of the boys, Jeff, helps the boy up then pushes him back down.

The narrator recounts the time the boy's grandfather brought home a gun. The boy learns to fire it and imagines the tin can target as Jeff's face.

On the way home from school, the boy is chased by Jeff and two other boys. They corner him, wrestle his winter boots off and run away. The boy goes home and runs to his bedroom. His grandmother passes a note under the door and the two have a conversation via these notes.

Renewed by his grandmother’s support, the boy tries to make his way through the school hallway, but accidentally ends up hitting Jeff in the face. "No one does that to me but my dad," says Jeff, and leaves the scene.

Some time later, the boy is waiting at a bus stop. Jeff appears, carrying hockey gear. Jeff calls him a name; the boy calls him another name, and Jeff hits the boy squarely in the ribs with his goalie stick. The boy crumples.  Jeff moves to check on him but hesitates, grabs his gear and leaves.

At school, the boy hands a note to the gym teacher excusing him from class. The teacher ignores the note and tells the boy to remove his shirt for basketball. He does so to reveal bruised and bandaged ribs. Jeff sees what he has done; the other students begin to whisper. The teacher blows a whistle to silence them, then tells the boy to sit off on the side. One of Jeff's friends throws a ball into the boy's face.

At home, the boy sneaks the rifle out of his grandparents' closet. The boy's grandmother leaves for work. As soon as the door shuts, the boy starts to stuff the rifle down the leg of his snow pants. His grandmother returns, having forgotten something. She sees what the boy is doing and sits down beside him. The boy breaks down in sobs as his grandmother comforts him.

The boy is sitting on the floor watching Degrassi Junior High. His grandmother walks over and stands directly in front of the TV. She smiles as she tells the boy they're moving.

At the new school, the Principal welcomes the boy and leaves him with another student, Alyssa. Alyssa shows the boy around. Despite the boy’s hope that things will now be different, the teasing begins again and the boy has had enough. The monster inside him finally breaks loose and the boy beats up his new classmates.

The boy, his grandmother and the Principal are in the Principal's office. The Principal is telling the grandmother about the fight as the boy sits in silence. It is revealed that the boy started the fight: the boy is the bully. The boy is sent home, he and his grandmother are now divided. At school, his reputation as a bully grows.

The cycle begins: the boy bullies other children at school, then comes home and expresses his rage throwing things and punching walls.  His grandparents fight and the boy, hunched over a desk in his room, begins cutting himself. The cycle repeats many time over several months until one cut goes deep and won't stop bleeding; the boy reaches out to his grandmother. The boy is taken to the hospital. His grandmother talks to him as he sits on the bed, crying.

At graduation, the boy listens as the class valedictorian makes her speech. He remembers the old man’s stories and realizes school has been his own war zone.  Graduation is over; the students throw their caps into the air and leave. One returns for his cap; the boy picks it up and offers it to him, but the student hesitates and leaves again without it. The boy is left alone. His grandmother appears, embraces him and the two leave together.
Length: Length is not available.
Total Acts: Not Available
Contact: Not Available
Composer Web Site:
Librettist Web Site:
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