This script was originally crafted to be performed by 8 actors. However, there are 16 speaking roles plus opportunities for performers to play Royal Fan Dancers, Dragon Dancers, Servants, Villagers, Soldiers and Nobles.

The speaking roles include:

MEI: A young woman from a simple fishing village. She is clever and compassionate but extremely timid.

PO LEVONNE: Mei’s grandmother and the Wise Woman of the village. She is respected for her knowledge and wisdom. “Po” means grandmother in Mandarin.

THE EMPEROR: An intelligent man, he epitomizes the Song dynasty by fostering creativity and innovation. He admires inventions and is easily distracted by new gadgets. His burden in life is his fragile health. By today’s standards he is an Asthmatic. When he is nervous or agitated his body reacts by closing up and making his breathing labored.

THE NIGHTINGALE: She is a graceful, elegant, yet simple gray bird. Her true beauty comes from her song, which is the ethereal sound of Chinese bells.

THE MUSIC MASTER: A nervous man who is insecure about his value and place in the Imperial Court. He was raised in a poor farming family and rose to his position through study and determination. Yet he always feels as if he doesn’t belong and fears losing his position.

THE JADE BIRD: The Music Master’s invention to foil the Nightingale. It could be played by a person or a puppet. The only requirements are that it be fantastic to look at in a flashy, sparkly way and that its music contrasts sharply with the Nightingale’s music.

LIAN: “graceful willow” a Village Woman
JIN: “gold” a Village Man
SHING: “victory” a Village Man
CHUNG: “intelligent” a Village Child
ZHUANG: “strong” a Village Child

“THE IMPERIAL CHOIR”: In the original production the Imperial Choir was played by a group of comic marionettes controlled by one brilliant puppeteer. The puppeteer wore a harness that had all 5 marionettes attached. Each marionette has it’s own distinct personality and silly character voice. They frequently bicker with each other and tease the Music Master. For large cast productions it would be simple to have each character played by a different person.

An: “peaceful” She is the moral soul of the group.
Lao: “old” Very disgruntled and convinced that everything was better when he/she was young. Lao’s voice probably was good when he/she was young, but now it is definitely showing the signs of age.
Ping: “duckweed” Just copycats everyone. No original thoughts.
Sying: “star” She sings EVERYTHING she says in an over-the-top way. She believes that her voice is the best.

Fan Che: “tomato” A “spacey” character whose head is always in the clouds.