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Of faeries, sprites, unicorns and magic — Nymbol welcomes everyone to his island in Langley
LANGLEY — The tingling in his tail told Nymbol it was time to entertain the humans.
In the folklore of Northwest England, boggarts are mischievous sprites who live under bridges or on dangerous sharp bends in roads, but the 215-year-old boggart Nymbol made his home in a knotty old cherry tree in Oregon.
“And then they cut the tree down, so I went and knocked on the door, and the Cass family took me in,” said Nymbol on a recent morning in Langley.
Now the handcrafted leather puppet lives at Nymbol’s Secret Garden workshop on First Street in downtown Langley, where his family — Bill, Sam, Tabitha and Izzy Cass — have created a world where magic and mystery are the main thrust of every day, along with the crafting of masks, puppets and fun.
With the helping hands of the Cass family, Nymbol and fellow puppets Blarney, Nymphaea, Serriffina and Bloobie, as well as a full cast of marauding pirates, faeries and a 9-foot troll, will present “Nymbol’s Secret Island” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 19 as part of the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts Local Artist Series.
“The making of this show is all about what you love to do,” said Sam Cass.
She should know. Sam and husband Bill decided three years ago to follow their bliss and leave the corporate ladder that Bill was climbing as a shoe designer for Nike in Portland. They struck out like seafaring explorers to Whidbey Island, where they almost immediately set up their puppet-making, mask-making, world-of-fantasy enterprise.
Though Bill Cass still designs sporty shoes, now he telecommutes for a company in Bothell, while also pursuing the important job of telling Nymbol’s story. “Nymbol’s Secret Island” is one in a series of five as yet unpublished books already in the works by Bill, with beautifully rendered drawings that bring to mind the illustrations of E. H. Shepard in Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows.”
“The amount of drawing I’ve done since starting this whole thing has just exploded,” he said.
And all that creative exploding has influenced the couple’s daughters Tabitha, 12, and Izzy, 9, who hold their own as puppeteers and creators in their own right.
Tabitha, a gifted singer, was asked by her parents to create the lyrics for the opening song of the show from music composed by local artist Robert Marsanyi. Tabitha has heeded Nymbol’s philosophy that the earth holds magic, and it’s up to the inhabitants to notice it. The title is “Nymbol’s Hello Song,” and as the show opens everyone sings:
There once was a time
When magic was seen
The world has now closed its eyes
To this secret serene
But if you want to see
What the world may be
Open your heart
close your eyes
There is magic and mystery all around
If you believe in secrets to be found
Another song in the show is called “Blarney, Where’s Your Trousers?”
It is with such gleeful, good-natured humor that the show not only tells the story of “Nymbol’s Secret Island,” but also takes the audience on a journey through Nymbol’s world to which other guests are invited, including the Pernicious Poppyseed Pixie on rollerskates, an elfin aerial artist who hangs high in a silk tree, dancing sprites of the International Ballet Theatre of Bellevue, the musical guest Philip Boulding of Magical Strings, playing Celtic harp and hammer dulcimer, and a house band playing marimbas, concertina, drums and other folk instruments favored by pirates.
The show encourages audience participation and, to that end, a boggart’s bounty of surprises have been prepared for both young and old to enjoy. The audience is also encouraged to dress up as faerie, gnome, goblin, pirate, witch or any other magical creature.
Ultimately, this family of local artists has created something that crosses all mediums with books to be published, CDs of the music to be made and podcasts to be streamed of the show on and off the island, such as at “Faerieworlds,” the summer solstice mythic faire that takes place each summer in Eugene, Ore., and where Nymbol had the faeries eating out of his hand last year. Bill Cass has even created Nymbol’s Magical Times newspaper for the show, which serves as a program and advertises local businesses such as “Sweet Mona’s: Proprietors of the world finest and freshest hand-dipped gribbles!” or “Useless Bay Coffee: Serving pirates and landlubbers caffeinated bliss since 1785.” The newspaper also devotes a goodly amount of ink to the benefits of unicorn poop. So there you go.
As for Nymbol, an evening of faeries’ pranks, marauding pirates, glib puppets and talented humans — what more could an old boggart out of an old cherry tree ask for?
“Nymbol’s Secret Island” is directed by Rose Woods and Suzanne Kelman.
Visit Nymbol’s Secret Garden’s Facebook Page for more about Nymbol’s world.
Tickets are $13, with priority seating given to children and adults who wear a costume to the show. A costume parade and prizes will be awarded during intermission.
Get tickets at www.WICAonline.com or call 221-8268.