Aristophanes's classic tale is transformed into a story for Turtle Island
Content notes (sometimes called content warnings) are our opportunity to give you a heads-up about some of the things you will encounter in the production. We recognize that certain content could be triggering and that there are some days you might not want to deal with those things or might need to have a heads-up before you do.
If you prefer to be surprised by the content, feel free to skip this section. Engage with the play in whatever way you wish!
Digital viewing of this production will be available May 29 - June 4, 2021.
Online ticket sales link will be live on May 27, 2021.
All tickets $10.00
Contact the Timms Box Office via email at email@example.com or via phone 780-492-2495 for additional ticketing information.
The Birds is a featured event at the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Canada's largest gathering of scholars (May 27 - June 4, 2021). The theme for this year’s Congress is “Northern Relations."
Check out this uncanny yet mesmerizing randomized digital bird generator by GooGroker. After hitting play, press X to create a new bird and Z to listen to its call.
The play opens with two men, Jack and Gulliver (tired of life in their old world which has been scarred and laid waste) arriving in the land of the Turtle Island birds. After admiring the view, Jack immediately claims to have “discovered” the “real estate” that would be worth a “pretty penny.” They pitch their plan to develop a city first to Hoopoe - a man who has fashioned himself as a bird and has taught the birds to speak in the common language of English instead of their many Indigenous tongues.
When the birds are summoned they immediately identify the men as enemies, accuse Hoopoe of selling the land and a battle ensues. Eventually, Jack is able to convince the bird leaders that they’ve been dispossessed of their rightful powers by the gods and men. To remedy this they propose to build a walled city which will interrupt prayers. The birds agree after conferring extensively and invite the men to dress themselves in feathers as well.
The Nightingale is honored by the birds and lusted after by the men. At key points in the plot she sings of Creation and of her transformation into a bird after the rape and mutilation of her sister. As the city is being built, they receive visitors: a priest, a poet and land surveyors who map the city, proposing new names so it can be included in the Dominion. Eventually an Agent arrives to oversee the city for the government and a lawyer to enforce the Dominion’s laws. All these interlopers are driven away and Eagle eventually intervenes to remind the birds of their values.
The play touches on issues of terra nullius, Lockian concepts of land improvement, residential schools, the rape and mutilation of women and survivance despite temptations and violence. It is also an adaptation of Aristophanes' The Birds, which is one of the quintessential Greek comedies. (You can learn more about Greek comedy here!)
When I was first approached by Melanie Dreyer-Lude, the Chair of the University of Alberta Drama Department and the Artistic Director of Studio Theatre, to compile a list of Indigenous plays to be possibly performed on the Studio Theatre stage, I was intrigued. It had been eleven years since an Indigenous play was performed on the Timms stage. In Studio Theatre’s 2009/2010 season, I played Annie Mae in Yvette Nolan’s Annie Mae’s Movement, directed by MFA student Jessica Abdallah. In 2021, I have now become the first Indigenous Director in a Studio Theatre season, with Yvette Nolan’s adaptation of The Birds. This is the third time I have directed Yvette’s work and I have to say, the more I delve into her words, the more I realize just how prolific she really is.
Yvette has brilliantly created characters that recognize and challenge the ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous worlds collide. In The Birds, she depicts the apocalyptic erasure of birds in the human world with the birds having fled the cities for their own survival. This play provided a unique opportunity to delve into Indigenous ways of knowing and being with the 4th year BFA Acting company without appropriation. Working with this predominantly non-Indigenous class on this Indigenous work with the support of the Drama Department has brought our worlds together in a self determined way. Creating an Indigenous creative process within an educational institution may not seem transformational but it is. Indigenous process inherently disrupts the hierarchy of creative processes. This is especially relevant with where we are in the times of #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs, #BlackLivesMatter, and #MMIWG.
In The Birds, this is represented through the presence of the Swallow, who is referred to in the play but not seen. In the time of enabling constraints, the Swallow joins the company as the unseen but present bird bringing to light the silence of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls. The students who are graduating this year have received training that not only prepares them for the performative world but the world we truly live in; one that is changing how Indigenous artists engage with the greater theatre landscape. It humbles me to see that with the experience of The Birds, these students will contribute to the change this country needs. Pandemic times being what they are, the run will be streamed. However, the presence of the story and its tellers may still reach through to hearts and minds of the ones that choose to witness.
(But Not Beyond the Depth of a Plough)
"A dramaturg is a member of the artistic team of a theatre production who is a specialist in the transformation of a dramatic script into a meaningful living performance."
(5) Michael Mark Chemers, Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy, Southern Illinois University Press, 2010.
The Birds eClass
As part of preparing the actors to have the background needed to begin rehearsal, Reneltta Arluk, Ken Williams, Selena Couture, and Cassandra James designed a six part curriculum to learn about Indigenous History in land known as Canada...
It's quite common among Indigenous people to ask "where are you from?" It's not considered rude. It's an invitation to share who you consider your community and family. The question implies certain responsibilities. It's asking, what is your relationship to the land you're on right now?...
Indigenous Community and Governance
To better understand Indigenous and settler approaches to community and governance, here are two articles we used as a group to think through land acknowledgement and treaty obligations...
Trade, Property, Land
The concepts of property, land, and trade are deeply intertwined. Here are three films that look more closely at the contentious histories of these topics in relation to colonialism...
Residential Schools: Truth and Reconciliation
To begin our conversations about residential schools, we asked students to reflect on what they already knew about these institutions. We encourage you to do the same, then check out these four videos that shine a light on the system...
(Content Warning: Abuse, Violence, Sexual Violence)
Art as a Form of Erasure
In this section of the eClass, we engaged with 3 projects as a way to understand how theatre can either contribute to erasure of Indigenous people, or fight against it...
Jack — Zac Strom
Gulliver — Hannah Wigglesworth
Sandpiper/Poet — Lauren Brady
Hoopoe/Shadow Creation Song — Dylan Maguire
Nightingale — Elizabeth Chamberlain
Raven — Michelle Robb
Agent/Lawyer/Owl — Max Hanic
Duck/Priest/Surveyor/Shadow Crow — Thomas Kassian
Eagle/Shadow Creation Song — Julia van Dam
Surveyor/Owl/Shadow Hawk — Sophie Healey
Duck — Jackson Thompson
Humming Bird — Taylor Nichols
Swallow — Sue Goberdhan
Shadow Creation Song — Elizabeth Page
Director — Reneltta Arluk
Set Designer — Even Gilchrist
Costume and Lighting Designer — Robert Shannon
Sound Designer — Aaron Macri
Composer — Kirsten Hawson
Co-Composers — Cassandra James, Aaron Macri
Dramaturgs — Selena Couture, Kenneth Williams
Assistant Director — Cassandra James
Movement Coach — Lin Snelling
Vocal Coach — Kirsten Hawson
Fight Director — JP Fournier
Assistant Costume Designer — Rory Turner
Assistant Lighting Designer — Even Gilchrist
Stage Manager — Courtney Bettanin
Assistant Stage Manager — Elizabeth Page
Design Advisor — Robert Shannon
Stage Management —John Raymond
Scenic Art Advisor — Cindi Zuby
Lighting Operator — Derek Miller
Sound Operator — Dylan MacKay
Stage Crew — Jack Thompson
SPECIAL THANKS TO
Production Manager — Gerry van Hezewyk
Technical Director — Larry Clark
Assistant Technical Director — Shane Marsh
Wardrobe Manager — Joanna Johnston
Cutter — Julie Davie
Milliner — Karen Kucher
Stitcher — Kade Mazury
Master Carpenter — Darrell Cooksey
Scenic Carpenter — Barbara Hagensen, Peter Locock
Lead Scenic Artist — Rory Turner
Scenic Artists — Julian Anderson, Amy Dass, Curtis Gauthier, Stuart Lindsay, Kade Mazury, Isabelle Martinez, Ian McClellan, Skylar Veldhuis
Properties Master — Jane Kline
Properties Assistant — Tiffany Martineau
Lighting Supervisors — Jeff Osterlin, Mel Geary
Lighting Technicians — Amy Dass, Curtis Gauthier, Kade Mazury, Ian McClellan, Skylar Veldhuis
Sound Supervisor — Matthew Skopyk
Head of Sound — Dylan MacKay
Department Chair/Artistic Director — Melanie Dreyer-Lude
Administrative Chair — Julie Brown
EA/Grad Advisor — Liz Ludwig
Undergrad Advisor — Connie Golden
Theatre Administrator — David Prestley
Box Office Coordinator — Candice Stollery
Office Coordinator/Admin Assistant — Helen Baggaley
Marketing and Communications — Erik Einsiedel