The Nightingale

The Emperor & the Nightingale
Ancient China:

A small bird teaches the Great Emperor the value of simple things and true friendship.

From Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story.

This is probably our most popular show. It’s good for the whole school: exotic music, colourful puppets, and a great story.

K–6. 250 students.


Stunningly imaginative—Winnipeg Free Press

  • Magnificent puppets ...There is a calmness underlying this production that makes it special—The Calgary Herald


  • Rag & Bone conjured up visions of Ancient China...a silver fan magically unfolded to become the moon. A large scroll illustrated Chinese writing... marvellous music and sound effects ... masterful. —The Ottawa Citizen


  • A seemingly endless degree of talent.--The Red Lake News


  • Beautiful visuals. Excellent performance. The music added so much atmosphere... it was magical.—Silverthorn P.S.


  • The students loved the performance! They were quietly enthralled and asked pertinent questions...Well done! —L. Jennings, Rockland P.S.


  • The Nightingale exceeds all other productions that I have was superb from beginning to end!—Lady Evelyn School


  • One of the best performances we have seen at our school—Vincent Massey P.S.


  • Outstanding performance...your troupe’s ability to move in and out of character without interrupting the continuity of the story line made for a most enjoyable and effective of the best “in-school” productions to come along in quite some time. Congratulations.—Bayview P.S.


  • Raves from all who attended...children gave close attention. They were with the cast.—Centennial School


  • Delightful presentation ... students attend closely and concentrate on the highly-researched and thought provoking content...young audiences are thrilled as well as informed by these players who do their “homework” exceptionally well...talented, versatile, highly professional and dedicated. I highly recommend them.—Isobel Bryan, Ottawa Board of Education


  • Thank you for the excellent presentation. Everyone enjoyed the play; the children talked about it for days afterward; the music impressed many of them, as well as the dialogue and props. I look forward to having you again next year—Susan Howard, Bayshore P.S

Our study guide is available as a PDF here.

The full text of The Nightingale is available on Project Gutenburg here.

Curriculum Focus and Expectations

Friendship, inclusion, empathy, leadership, kindness and caring.

Demonstrate an understanding of how elements of drama are used in theatre to communicate meaning.

Storytelling through puppetry and music, using classical stories as source for drama.

ANCIENT CHINA was the most beautiful place in the world

—and the most beautiful thing in it was the song of the Nightingale in the forest by the sea.

When the Emperor heard the Nightingale sing, her song brought tears to his eyes. He ordered a gold cage for her, so that she could live at court from now on. Soon the Nightingale was all anyone ever talked about.

One day, a present arrived for the Emperor, a gift from the Emperor of Japan. It was an artificial nightingale that turned around and even played a little tune. The people at court were so thrilled with it that they hardly noticed when the real one flew away, back to her own green woods.

Everyone agreed that the artificial bird was better anyway. They played it over and over again until one day it broke. It was almost worn out, and from then on it could only be played once a year.

Years later, the Emperor was dying. He lay in bed, all alone, haunted by the memories of all his good deeds and all his bad deeds. Death hovered, ready to take the Emperor away. Suddenly, at the window, the real Nightingale began to sing. Her song chased away the Emperor's fears, and brought him strength. Death was filled with a longing for his garden, his home. He changed into a cold white mist and floated out the window.

"You saved my life," said the Emperor. "Take my gold cape."

"I don’t want a reward," answered the Nightingale. "I want to be your friend."

In the morning the servants tip-toed in, expecting to see their dead Emperor's body, but there he was, all better. Healthy and happy, he called out to them: "Good Morning!"

  • Time for set up: 1 hour
  • Length of show: 50 minutes
  • Question period: 10 minutes
  • Take down time: 1 hour

We need use of the performance area for three hours.

Please re-arrange any activities scheduled for that time, and have the space cleared for our arrival.

Seating Arrangement

Our set will extend 25 feet across, and is 20 feet deep. We’ll help the teachers to seat their students.

The students should sit cross-legged on the floor, in order of age. This is easiest to accomplish if the students arrive in order of age, youngest to eldest. The youngest group could arrive about 5 minutes prior to the performance time.

You can see a PDF file of our seating plan for schools here, and our public show seating here.


Although children will be seated on the floor, we’ll set chairs along the sides to mark out their area; teachers can use these chairs to sit beside their classes. We also need three chairs backstage.


Please turn off all bells, fans, and air conditioners for the performance.

We need to back our van up to the door which gives the closest access to the performance area. Please arrange to have gates and doors unlocked, and to keep the parking space free for us. If there is no easy access to the performance area, we’d appreciate it if three or four people could help us to unload and load our equipment.

Floor Plan

A floor plan of the show, in PDF format, is available for download: click here.

Click here for a PDF version of this sheet.