By Megan Bowers, Staff Writer
Studio 88 has never been arranged quite like this.
The usual risers have been replaced with an assortment of different chairs, some fancy and some simple fold-ups. There is a variety of decorative lanterns and light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. A small stage with a simple curtain hanging across it is set back in the performance space.
This arrangement creates a realistic atmosphere for the Theatre Department’s production of “Stupid F—ing Bird.”
“Stupid F—ing Bird” is an adaptation of Chekhov’s classic, “The Seagull.” It was written by Aaron Posner in 2013, making the classic more relevant to modern day audiences.
“The show is about the reality of life and how truthful pain, frustration and happiness all are,” said Anthony Thompson, music director and actor playing the role of Dev in “SFB.” “It’s about suffering for your craft, but also suffering for those you love.”
The fact that this production was derived from another play meant that the cast had to do background work on their characters in “Stupid F—ing Bird” and in “The Seagull.”
“There are times when I thought, I’ve got to put more emphasis on that because it’s from ‘The Seagull,’ but I also got a sense of what the writer changed in ‘Stupid F—ing Bird’ and I know I have to hold true to that,” said Raechel Lombardo, who plays the character Mash.
The fact that it is an adaptation also makes it stand out from the shows the department has done in the past.
“The style of this play is very unique because it’s a deconstruction and it has a lot of different elements,” said Saffron Henke, the show’s director. “The actors speak to the audience, there’s live music and the style of the play is different even in the world of plays in general.”
The casting for the play took place the week before finals in the spring semester to give the cast time to prepare since the performances are taking place so early in the semester.
“I cast with an eye toward how well they did in their audition and how well I thought they would be able to collaborate,” said Henke.
The actors were then able to come into the first rehearsals with all of their lines memorized. This was helpful as they were able to quickly work on setting up the scenes of the show.
However, it was also a challenge to run lines alone.
“It was a little weird memorizing lines without other people,” said Lombardo. “There were also some things I ended up changing when I saw how other people were coming at their characters.”
Unlike other shows, “Stupid F—ing Bird” doesn’t start at the beginning of the play. The actors will already be in character working as ushers and getting ready as the audience comes into the black box.
This sets the scene for what is happening in the play and also provides the cast with the chance to get comfortable with their character.
“It is a wonderful theatrical invention,” says Thompson. “It really forces us to start the story before the show begins and helps us ease into character instead of just diving right in.”
The director has requested that the actors and creative staff all do the show with the feeling of being in love to create a more encouraging environment and to help emphasize the themes of love throughout the play.
“The thing about acting as if you are in love is that the last thing you want to think about is acting,” said Thompson. “You want to think about being a human being, breathing and trying your best to connect.”
The writer of the play has also made adjustments in the script to keep it relevant in any era it is performed in.
“There are asterisks that you can change depending on the situation, like it will tell you to say something relevant to worldviews, politics, your theatre,” said Lombardo. “It makes the show personally humorous so it can be performed wherever.”
“Stupid F—ing Bird” had three songs written into it originally, but this production has added much more. Music director Anthony Thompson wrote music for interludes as well as motifs for everyone in the cast.
“I started writing music the last week of the semester and finished in about three weeks,” said Thompson. “I tried to keep the cast’s musical abilities in mind, as well as what instruments they could play and what scenes they were or weren’t in.”
It also presented new challenges to everyone in the cast.
“I’m intimidated by my music because I don’t normally sing unless I’m playing extravagant characters and for this I had to do my own sound, so it’s a little vulnerable for me.”
The cast of “Stupid F—ing Bird” has tried to make something that is very relatable to any audience they might have.
“A lot of the show is about the idea of what am I going to make out of my life,” said Thompson. “College students relate to this a lot because the pressures of trying to fit into the world are very real.”
“Stupid F—ing Bird” will be showing at 7 p.m. on Oct 5-8 and at 2 p.m. on Oct 9 in Studio 88.