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A short, half-hour opera. Made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and organized by the Telling Room [1] and the University of Southern Maine [2], the libretto was written by seven middle and high school students over the course of five days. The music was composed by Daniel Sonenberg [3], writer-composer of opera "The Summer King," over the course of three months. (For reference, most operas take years if not decades to write.) "Girl In Six Beats" is scheduled for a world premiere on April 21st, in Portland, Maine.


The opera tells the story of a teenage girl who ends up in Limbo after attempting suicide. Two spirits, Oblivion and Rebirth, argue over her fate - it's made clear that she has no choice in the matter. With the help of an older lost soul known only as "Slushie Guy," she must find her voice and make her own decision in time, or be stuck in Limbo forever.

"Girl In Six Beats" contains examples of the following tropes:

  • AM/FM Characterization: The characters were originally supposed to have this through the music. The Girl would play the triangle (a silvery, timid instrument) throughout her scenes, Oblivion would play the crotales (lending a sense of infinity and power), Rebirth would play the tamborine (with its connotation of strength and joy), Mother would play the clavinet (an intense, emotional sound) and Slushie Guy would, of course, play the bongos. In the interests of the actors being able to learn their parts in time, this was scrapped, at least for the premiere. Instead, the chorus plays all the percussion.
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  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Oblivion and Rebirth are hinted to be this. Their job is to decide the fate of each soul who passes through Limbo. They are trapped in an eternal argument, forever.
  • The Atoner: Slushie Guy is implied to be this. He hints that he chose to stay in Limbo as punishment for being an awful person during his life, and since then has been helping new souls take charge of their lives as a way to atone. His suggested costume - a 1920s gangster outfit - makes the hints even stronger.
  • Blue Is Heroic: It is specified in the stage directions that Slushie Guy's slushie must always be blue.
  • Captain Oblivious: Mother. Despite the fact that she works at a teen suicide prevention clinic, and is thus trained in recognizing these signs, she had no idea her daughter was depressed until she finds out (via phone call) that she has attempted suicide.
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  • Dare to Be Badass: Slushie Guy delivers one of these to the hero. She is willing to roll over and let her fate be decided for her, until he goads and encourages her into making her own decision.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Slushie Guy's message. He is the reason the girl realizes that she can't leave her mother alone, no matter how much she wants to die.
  • Establishing Character Music: A given in opera.
  • Lead You Can Relate To: The girl is supposed to be this for a teen audience. As such, she doesn't even have a name.
  • Misery Builds Character: The Girl goes through this. After dying and going through Limbo, she comes out the other side more confident in herself and more ready to fight for her own happiness.
  • Mysterious Backer: Slushie Guy fills this role.
  • Oh, Crap!: Mother has an entire aria about this when she finds out her daughter has attempted suicide.
  • Sad Clown: Slushie Guy is this by definition.
  • Snark Knight: Slushie Guy.

Example of: