Unscripted Moments: The Bird Girl at Mercy Street Theater


(Photos by : Christopher Semel)

For this Segment of Unscripted Moments, we’re sitting down with Julia Rohed the director of  The Bird Girl a brand new play. The show was written by resident playwright EJC Calvert, and is being put up by Mercy Street a new company in their first season here in Chicago.

A little about the show:

Living a life of solitude in a remote asylum, Amity’s world is shaken when she’s scooped up by an enterprising ringmaster and finds herself the centerpiece of a traveling freak show. …..The Bird Girl is a look at the intense pressure of public gaze, how it effects self-image and becomes a driving force in Amity’s life. The play was developed in workshop with Jon Robin Baitz at the New School for Drama in 2009, and had a reading with NYAC’s Casual Reading Series in August 2010.
(Mercy Street Website)

Leigh Yenrick: Tell us a little about the background of the production

Julia Rohed: For Mercy Street’s first season we wanted to produce a play by one of our Resident Playwrights. EJC Calvert brought The Bird Girl to us and we fell in love with it! The plot of the play itself is wholly fictional but “Koo Koo The Bird Girl” is loosely based on an actual woman named Minnie Woolsey who performed as Koo Koo The Bird Girl in the early 20th century. You can actually see her in the movie Freaks, the famous 1932 film about a freak show.

LY: In your Mission Statement, you talk about wanting to tell stories that examine the “modern myth”. Could you explain what you mean by that and how does The Bird Girl fit into that premise?

JR: The “modern myth” simply exemplifies stories about people set against things larger than themselves in a contemporary context. Myths aren’t just fairy tales from ancient civilizations. We still have heroes, gods and icons that we still recognize in today’s world. In The Bird Girl, Amity is placed in a world full of unfamiliar things and we watch her grow from a young, shy, self conscious young woman into a performer who knows what she wants and knows who she is. Koo Koo The Bird Girl was an icon in freak show history and this play gives her a voice to tell her story!

LY: The Show is not very linear in nature. How was this a challenge for you as a director to keep the story flowing ?

JR: I think the biggest challenge in this was figuring how we would see Amity digress and regress from the way she was with her Mother in the past to how she evolves into a more confident character in the “present” scenes. As we move around the timeline of the play, the constant was always Amity, so we really worked on making sure they’re was a distinction in how she was portrayed as we moved back and forward through time to keep the story and flow consistent.


(Photos by : Christopher Semel)

LY: As this segment is called Unscripted Moments, I would like to know your favorite moment in the show and why?

JR: I actually have 2 favorite moments, but they are related to each other! At the end of the second scene of the play, Amity asks her mother where she is going to go if she marries Bo. Her mother’s response is “Wherever he tells you.”. This is mirrored in the final lines of the play when Roy asks Amity where she plans to go and her response is “Wherever I want.”. I think its the perfect button to epitomize Amity’s growth through the play into someone who knows what their worth is and is determined to live her life on her terms.

The Bird Girl will be running through March 28th at Unity Lutheran Church in Uptown. I encourage you to go out and see and support local theater and find your favorite Unscripted Moment.

Dates: March 19,20,21,25,26,27,and 28 @ 7:30, Unity Lutheran Church,1212 W Balmoral Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60640.
Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1316306

Leigh Yenrick

Leigh is a working actor here in the Windy City. Wanted to to give a behind the scenes look into the theater that is happening here in Chicago so she does a spotlight column called "Unscripted Moments".

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