Quill Theatre’s ‘Stupid F**king Bird’ brings HBO-style dramedy to the RTP stage this weekend
When I spoke with Director Jon Kretzu about his upcoming production, I wasn’t sure what to call it.
But Kretzu, a Portland native back in Richmond for his second production, was quick to clarify the name is exactly what you think it is – Stupid Fucking Bird.
The play centers around what is described as an “exquisitely narcissistic family of directors, actors, and admirers” who love and hate each other, often with those emotions swapping as fast as quips on stage. Loosely inspired by Chekhov’s classic play, The Seagull, Stupid Fucking Bird aims to be a “contemporary re-imagining of the eternal struggle between artists and those who both inspire and are destroyed by them.”
Written by Aaron Posner, and a winner of the 2014 “Helen Hayes Award for “Best New Play,” Stupid Fucking Bird is considered a metatheatrical experience involving the audience that swings from “farce to romantic tragedy to a story of powerful family dynamics.”
“It’s a very hot script right now,” said Kretzu, who called Chekhov his favorite writer and praised Posner’s modern retelling. “Without Chekhov there’d be now dramedies or Breaking Bad or any of the other HBO-type shows. That style, that ironic, post modern, ‘you’re laughing one second and shocked the next, the next you’re crying.’”
Kretzu said this fast paced storytelling with manic-emotional swings is now commonplace in other visual mediums, but hasn’t quite made it to the theatre yet, at least until Chekhov came around.
“It’s like binge watching an entire season of the Leftovers,” he said. “People who have come to see it have left wrung out cause it plays on all your emotions, and all the kinds of things you experience. You don’t watch it passively.”
The more modern additions, the metatheatrical elements of the play which aim for a level of audience involvement, are also part of Kretzu’s excitement for Stupid Fucking Bird. “I hate theatre that kind of sits there, that’s something separate from you…. so this is not theatre like that,” he said. “This is theatre you have to actively be involved in watching and experiencing.”
This is Kretzu’s second time in Richmond after spending last winter at the VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theater for to direct Quill Theatre’s (then still known as Richmond Shakespeare and Henley St. Theatre) Lion in Winter. While he said he enjoyed the size, grandeur and beauty of the VMFA space, he was excited to move to RTP’s more intimate setting where he was able to play more with the set design, and even rebuild the staging area to help put the audience in the play.
“I love working in different styles and theater sizes so it makes it fun,” he said, calling the RTP theatre diametrically different in audience size and allowing for a more immersive experience.
As you could imagine from the play’s title, Stupid Fucking Bird has adult language and adult themes, so be aware of that going in, but be sure to check it out when it opens this weekend.
“I don’t like safe theatre,” he said. “The world has far too much safe art, and that’s not the point of art… it’s good to shake stuff up.”
Tickets are available from the Quill Theater’s website here. The play runs from January 7 – 30, 2016.
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