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 directed 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 were an integral part of the HWS production, which also featured a cast almost entirely composed of HWS mainstage debutants. The actors were: 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 included 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 was consulted on police procedure.
The performance also featured 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 featured Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Elana Jefferson-Tatum.
All performances were followed by a moderated discussion about the issues raised in the play.