pig they produced was now raised in a stew
Of chemicals, medicines, and a lot of its poo,
Was identically sized with meat that was lean,
Efficient to slaughter, less hog than machine."
Willy comes to life in songs, dialogue
Not content with print and paint, composer Jo Forman
transformed Bill Weida's wonderful poem, beautifully illustrated
by Jo Langer, into a musical performance piece. Here's how
Joanne Forman described the musical for us ...
The idyllic farming community of County Dundeen is situated
in a green valley where young farmers set out generation after
generation to raise pigs as their fathers have before them.
Yet Dundeen is mesmerized when the Snake Oil Man comes to
town in his gilt-decorated red wagon. He promises them they'll
all be rich—very rich – if only they will change
their ways and build a big – very big -- factory for
"What about the poo?" asks young Willy, our thoughtful
hero. "Oh, we take care of that in a lagoon," smiles
Patricia Pig, Paulina Pig and Bobby Boar are skeptical, but
dutifully pack their suitcases and move into the new factory
farm. Disaster follows upon disaster: the winsome pigs are
confined in cages so small they can't even turn around; Paulina's
piglets are taken away; and their food is laced with nasty-tasting
Even Pablo the human attendant is sympathetic to the pigs.
He is an undocumented worker whose hopes for a new life in
the U.S. have been blighted by his experience in the confined
When Pablo quits, Willy takes over. His different management
choices lead to a surprising – if bittersweet –
The gentle humor of “Willy” is beguiling, but
the fable explicates all the issues surrounding the controversial
topic of factory animal farming. Clever characters and tuneful
songs say it all. For example, the text of "A Seepy Lagoon"
tell us in a sultry Latin beat that:
It's often the case when you talk of lagoons
The words that we use are of ducks, geese and loons ....
But where hog poo is stored it just isn't true...
it stinks to high heaven, it seeps through each crack
A seepy lagoon's not the pond of your dreams...
Pablo musically lists the antibiotics he gives to the pigs.
In a dignified madrigal, the pigs explain that they used to
be proud to feed the world, but now feel tainted as factory
A balladeer ties it all together as he warns at the end:
On farms and in towns in County Dundeen
The folks have all learned that to keep water clean,
And to keep the air pure.
You must always remember some things are not for sale.
“Willy” is designed to be performed by church,
school or community groups from junior high school age and
up. It can be done by humans, puppets or a combination of
(Joanne Forman is a composer/writer from Taos, N.M.,
to hike in the Sangre de Cristo mountains while she thinks
up new musicals and operas as well as choral, orchestral or
chamber music. She has been known to converse with pigs in