In April, the HWS Theatre Department will stage Zakiyyah Alexander’s poignant contemporary urban drama The Etymology of Bird.
Set in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, The Etymology of Bird follows two teens whose love is doomed by a police shooting. The play is a timeless story of romance and grief and an examination of the intersection of race and power in the modern American city. Critically acclaimed since its 2008 world premiere at the Providence Black Repertory Company, The Etymology of Bird has garnered the Theodore Ward Prize and the Stellar Network Award.
Associate Professor of Theatre Heather May, who is directing the show, says the play “provides a powerful antidote to the popular image of urban communities of color as crime-ridden cement deserts by celebrating the immense creative, intellectual, and community-oriented energies found in places like Bedford-Stuyvesant.”
Dance and rap are an integral part of the HWS production, which also features a cast almost entirely composed of HWS mainstage debutants. The actors are: Josiah Bramble ’19, Eros Cabrera ’19, Cydney Conley ’17, Ashley De Los Santos ’17, Lauryn Downing ’17, Donovan Hayden ’19, Christopher Clayton Williams ’19 and Patrick Wolber ’18.
The crew includes Set, Light, and Technical Director Bill Burd, Resident Sound Designer Kelly Walker, Costume Designer Dixon Reynolds, Property Masters Alexandra Peters ’17 and Adam Young ’19, Stage Manager Kayli Ennis’17, and Assistant Stage Managers Austin Jennings ’19, Gail Quintos ’17 and Isabel Ingram’19. Director of Campus Safety Martin Corbett has consulted on police procedure.
The performance will also feature dramaturgy by Assistant Professor of Theatre Chris Woodworth’s “African American Theatre” class, in addition to a Frame/Works event. The Frame/Works program connects scholarly examination and artistic practice as scholars present their research on a play, playwright, historical moment, genre or style in a pre-show lecture. The pre-show lecture for this production features Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Elana Jefferson-Tatum.
All performances will be followed by a moderated discussion about the issues raised in the play. Performances are scheduled for April 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and April 15 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at McDonald Theatre in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $5 in advance and free for students starting 30 minutes before curtain.