Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Eugenie Carabatsos

Second Advisor

Laura Edmondson

Third Advisor

Samantha Lazar


A Loon on Highland Lake is a fantasy play, adapted from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake, itself an adaption of a Russian “swan maiden” folktale. In this retelling, the spirit of an invasive tree species, Alder Buckthorn, endangers the inhabitants of the small lake town of East Andover, New Hampshire. On the night of the 4th of July, Buckthorn places a curse on an unfortunate news reporter, transforming him into a loon, the solitary black bird known in the northeast for its distinct, haunting call. Figgy, a shy ecologist living in East Andover, stumbles upon the knowledge that her beloved loon becomes a man at moonrise each night. With the help of her cousins, Figgy believes she can break the curse and save her home from the looming Buckthorn. Guided by the work of indigenous ecologists and their efforts to preserve vital wetland ecosystems, A Loon on Highland Lake explores themes of intentional belonging, both to physical place and to our fellow humans—what does it mean to “be from” somewhere? Why do we claim a piece of land, an animal, a plant, or another person as “ours”? Scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer writes in her book Braiding Sweetgrass, “One thing I’ve learned in the woods is that there is no such thing as random. Everything is steeped in meaning, colored by relationships, one thing with another.” This adaptation of the Swan Lake tale is an observation of the ways we create meaning by our relating, how we practice both giving and receiving. Dance and puppetry feature heavily in the script, animating the water and air, as well as creatures like the great blue heron, purple finch, and snapping turtle. Ideally, a production of this play will utilize found and borrowed materials in its costume and stage design.