Synopsis Time: circa 1875 The curtain opens to a stage divided in two - one side a large dining and meeting room, the adjoining space the inside of a beautiful little chapel with a choir loft upstage. The scene opens as Angela, the young, blind housekeeper tidies up the dining/meeting room while the four Sisters of Loretto discuss the problem with their chapel. The solution, according to Mother Elena, is to say a novena and pray. During this discussion there is a knock and Mother Elena tells Angela to answer the door, as the ever-doubting Sister Thomasina worries that it might be a thief. It proves to be a carpenter offering his help to the nuns. Mother Elena explains that when their lovely chapel was built, not enough room was left for a stairway up to the choir loft. A ladder was simply not acceptable. The other problem is that Bishop Lamy is due to arrive to bless the chapel. They all show the carpenter the chapel, which he finds beautiful. He is prepared to work that very night, but evening prayers prevent that. He then plans to begin work the next day and chooses Angela, who requested it, to be his assistant, and so the work begins. Angela helps the carpenter, who chooses to be called only by that moniker, as best she can. He tells her about their work and where the staircase will be placed, something she can only imagine. Days pass and the day for the arrival of the bishop draws nearer. Meanwhile, Sister Thomasina is very upset because although they have been bringing buckets of water daily to the carpenter and Angela, they have not been able to see the progress because that was the wish of the carpenter and the construction has been hidden behind a drape. Furthermore, the bishop is scheduled to arrive the very next day. Sister Thomasina decides to take matters into her own hands. During the dark of night she leads Sister Martha and Sister Pauline into the chapel to see what has been built. They are caught in the middle of their mission by Angela, who tries reasoning with them. Sister Thomasina is not about to be stopped from achieving her goal when suddenly the carpenter appears. He tells them the staircase is done and they will be able to see it the next day. The arrival of Bishop Lamy is greeted with excitement by the nuns. He is looking forward to seeing the chapel and blessing it. He inquires as to the whereabouts of Angela, which leads to the explanation of the carpenter without a name, and to the construction of the staircase – the staircase that no one has seen. Angela appears and leads the way into the chapel, pulling down the drape that hides the magnificent staircase. “But is it safe?” asks the Bishop? Only Angela has holds the answer to that question and reveals the miracle that surrounds it.
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Romantic and tonal
Vocal & Musical Forces
Singers: soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone; male and female dancer; organ; bells; horn; cello; oboe; flute
Cast in 1990: Zoe Dear as Mother Magdalene, Lisa Ray Turner as Sister Blandina, Wil Moore as Father Sebastian, P.J. Sedillo as The carpenter (dancer), Keri Sutter as Manuela (dancer)