Mar 17-Apr 02, 2017
The Conference of the Birds invites audiences on a mysterious theatrical journey away from traditional narrative and performance styles that American audiences have come to expect. The play, based on a 12th century Sufi poem by Farid Uddi Attar and adapted for the stage in 1979 by Peter Brook is an exuberant experiment in ensemble storytelling.
The Hoopoe has called the birds of the world together in order to undertake the journey to find their true king - a benevolent and beautiful bird known as Simorgh. The birds must travel over a seemingly unending desert and through seven valleys in order to find him. Along the way, the birds will be faced with riddles, stories and parables that explore deep spiritual questions reflecting one's quest for God. In seeking the Simorgh, the birds are seeking an understanding of their place in the universe. As they travel, the birds are constantly plagued by human weakness, tempting them to fall away from their journey.
The director, Karen Caroe, has assembled a talented and diverse cast of ten actors to portray the birds. With a cartwheel and the addition of a cape or beard, the birds become slaves, royalty, hermits, and thieves in a series of vignettes that point to the central story. The ensemble's skillfully developed movement on a minimal set is indicative of Caroe's directorial style and is well suited for the organic simplicity of presenting the story's timeless and universal themes.
The sacred, beautiful language of the birds
- By MIKE COOK, Las Cruces Bulletin
"The Conference of the Birds" is an allegory, a metaphor, a mystical journey and a really entertaining way to spend an evening.
The play, which continues for seven more performances at Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St. downtown, is based on a 12th century poem by Farid ud-Din, who was born and died in Nishapur, Iran.
Director Karen Caroe chose 10 talented actors to tell this remarkable story, written by Peter Brook and Jean-Claude Carriere. Each of her players gives an inspired performance, individually and in the ensemble, bringing life to more than 30 parts, including many different birds and the characters they meet on their journey: princess, king, beggar, thief, slave, saint, astrologer and even a grave digger.
Micah Glidewell sings beautifully as the nightingale, and provides the perfect guitar music (which she composed) as the birds make their way across the desert and the seven valleys - quest, love, knowledge, detachment, unity, wonder and, finally, poverty and annihilation -
and discover the true meaning of their journey and their lives.
The poet chose birds to communicate his beautiful and deeply spiritual message because, in Sufism and many other religions and cultures, the language of birds is sacred.
But this is also a fun show, with a bit of audience participation.
Tiffany Tyson's choreography, the music provided by Micah and other actors, Autumn Gieb's fantastic costumes and Peter Herman's lighting design all added depth and a certain magic to the show. Tyson also was an inspired hoopoe, the leader of the birds.
Caroe and her actors and crew clearly understand that this tale is about much more than a flock of pretty birds. It is a poem and a play with a powerful message sustained across nine centuries and reawakened in a small theatre with a handful of cubes for props, a talented cast and crew and a wise director.
I was particularly struck by perhaps the oldest member of the cast, Mark Hammersmith, as the walking bird, the flute player and the astrologer, among other characters he created; and the youngest, Owen Glidewell, who played the hermit and the heron.
I was in "On Golden Pond" with Owen more than a year ago, and thought he was good then. At 14, he is amazing. I can't wait to see what he does next.
Mark Kitanga (the donkey in Las Cruces Community Theatre's production of "Shrek") was a wise and graceful falcon in his first show at the Black Box. Joseluis Solorzano, with whom I acted in "The Explorers Club," was again terrific in this show as a musician and actor. I so loved his phoenix.
Veronica Bissell can add a wonderful sparrow and a memorable duck to her many acting credits at New Mexico State University, along with Belle in Scaffolding Theatre Company's recent "Beauty and the Beast."
Sarah Glidewell played six parts along with her work in the ensemble, and I especially enjoyed her double bird and partridge.
No seating plan has been posted.