THEATRE DIRECTOR & EDUCATOR
STUPID F##KING BIRD
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Stupid F##king Bird
By Aaron Posner
Directed by Fabrice Conte-Williamson
Scenic Design by Jody Sekas
Lighting Design by Jake Bray & Jenny Bauer
Costume Design by Mya Figueroa
Sound Design by Kevin Gray
Props by Minnie Martinez
Photo credit: Alyssa Nepper
KCACTF Region 3 Invited Production
University of Wisconsin-Parkside, 2020.
In November 2019, the faculty and staff of the Theatre Arts Department gathered to plan the next season of shows. Based on our student committee’s enthusiastic recommendation, we selected Aaron Posner’s Stupid F##king Bird as the opening title of the season. This play, which has been quite popular since its 2013 premiere at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC, is particularly notable for its irreverent humor, its nod to theatre history, and its provocative questioning of our art form. And, as the designated director of the production, I found Posner’s invitation for actors and audiences to interact throughout the show to be an exciting challenge, as this is a rare feature in contemporary theatre.
Well, here we are, a year later and in the middle of a crisis that has forced many professional theatres to close their doors for the foreseeable future, presenting to you Stupid F##king Bird… without a live audience. The Covid-19 pandemic that has paralyzed the live entertainment industry since March has forced us to reconsider the way we make theatre and the way we deliver it to audiences. Beside all the safety precautions that have been part of our new creative process (such as mask wearing, social distancing, and systematic sanitation), we have learned to master new technologies so we can continue to tell stories about the human experience. Though we are unable to gather in person in the tradition that has fed our souls and bound our communities for almost three millennia, we do so today via livestreaming—a new form of theatre if you will. And it just so happens that Stupid F##king Bird might be the perfect show to explore this fresh theatrical adventure. Throughout the play, Conrad, our protagonist, argues against the status quo and the hindering traditions of yesteryear. He relentlessly pleads for innovation: “We need new kinds of theatre! New forms!” Could this era of digital theatre be a partial answer to Conrad’s request?
If Conrad is so adamant about bringing new forms of theatre to the stage, it is because he is desperately burdened by the weight of the great playwrights of the canon. How could anyone write anything truly new after Shakespeare? After Ibsen? After Beckett? The task seems daunting, if not impossible.
Posner describes Stupid F##king Bird as “sort of adapted from The Seagull by Anton Chekhov,” a play unambiguously labeled as one those sacred “classics.” In fact, most theatre students across the country are somewhat forcefully subjected to read, analyze, and often perform Chekhov’s masterworks during their course of study for his oeuvre is considered—by scholars and practitioners alike—a triumph of modernity, inventiveness, and (read with emphasis) theatrical genius. Among them, you might recognize titles such as The Cherry Orchard, The Three Sisters, or Uncle Vanya. All written at the turn of the 20th century, they tell stories of a bored and broke country-side bourgeoisie who dreams of going to Moscow (but almost never does) and who indulges in unreciprocated love and unsatisfying idleness. But rest assured, if you are unfamiliar with Chekhov’s plays, you can nonetheless enjoy Stupid F##king Bird to its fullest: the themes are universal and the characters transcend the narrow world of pre-revolution Russian society. Stupid F##king Bird may be “a deconstruction” and “a rip-off of a classic” as Conrad admits to us in the first act, but it is also a shining example of contemporary American theatre.