Teeka Teeka Teeka is a micro-opera, 14 minutes in duration, with a cast of two, accompanied by piano. It is the tale of 2 caged birds, Robin and Robyn. Robin, the male bird, wishes for a mate, and one day his dream comes true when Robyn is suddenly thrust into his cage. Robyn rebuffs Robin’s advances, telling him that she already has a mate and will always be true to him. Robyn is so filled with grief that she refuses to eat or drink, and Robin consoles her and brings her food. After nearly a week, she goes to the food tray and eats. Robin offers her a twig as an offer of courtship and she accepts. Together they sing “Fly Home” in which they fantasize about flying to their nest in the trees, high above the dangers below. For a brief moment, the cage bars which have been symbolically represented by shadows on the stage, disappear and are replaced by a beautiful golden glow. As the song concludes, the golden glow fades and once again the bars shadow the stage, as the two birds perch next to each other.
A caged bird wishing to fly serves as a metaphor for everything that we humans want in our lives but seem to lack. However, Teeka Teeka Teeka is true to the nature of the bird in many ways. Male songbirds sing in hopes of attracting a female with their intricate calls. (“Teeka Teeka Teeka”) Many birds have a ritualized courtship dance which the male will perform for the female. (“Cock of the Walk”) The male bird bringing food to the female is another offer of courtship. If the female accepts, the two become a mated pair; if she refuses, the male moves on to another female and tries again. (“You Must Eat”) The offering of a twig is common among some species of birds, as a symbol of courtship, and is called a “nuptial gift.” It is thought to impress the female with the male’s ability to find nesting material. (“Fly Home”)
Many birds mate for life, and so Robyn’s statement that she has a mate and will always be true to him is also supported in the wild by many species of bird.
One element of courtship in birds that differs from humans is the role of the genders. The male bird is the colorful, attractive one, who lures a mate with his good looks and strong voice. The female bird is duller in color and chooses the biggest, most colorful bird with the strongest song. This is basically the opposite of humans, where studies have shown that men choose women primarily on the basis of their physical appearance and women try to attract men with their looks.
To highlight this role reversal in birds, Robin, the male bird, is a coloratura soprano role, and Robyn, the female bird, is a baritone.
This piece requires no set or costumes. The lighting effect of the bird cage bars is desirable but not needed. Some suggestion of bird-ness in the clothing of the singers is suggested—in the 2 productions the piece has had, the two singers dressed in identically colored clothing, and they wore hats which were subtly adorned with a feather or two. (Robin wore a pillbox hat with 2 long pheasant feathers and Robyn wore a fedora with 2 small pheasant feathers stuck in the hat band.)