‘The Conference of Birds’ Brings New Perspectives of Life to Audience

By Savannah Estabrook, Yearbooker

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  • The students stare at the audience as if they are their uncertain destination. The birds they portray have been flying for a vary long time and can’t tell when they will reach the end of their journey.

  • The birds group together as they explore through yet another valley. Kevin Murray ’20 appears to reveal the next secret. Once reaching a different valley they don’t know what to expect.

  • The princess’s slave, Diego Rodriguez ’22, and the nightingale, Nicole Boisseau ’20, speak between each other as other birds watch. They hesitate as they reach toward one another.

  • Diego Rodriguez ’22 and Ian Webster ’20 look at each other in suspense. The birds lie on the floor thinking up of how to solve their next conflict.

  • The group poses in the blue lighting showing the despair and conflict on the way to reaching through the valleys. Each student characterizes their bird in a different way. “A lot of it is about finding something you believe in,” Nicole Boisseau ’20 said. “We can all be united when we believe in something together whether it’s love or friendship.”

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The Westwood Theatre’s class struck the audience with amazement as they performed a shortened version of The Conference of Birds on Thursday and Friday, March 5 and 6, in the Westwood black box. The play, an original two-hour show with intermission, was derived from a Persian poem with minimal dialogue and a meaning open to interpretation. The directors and actors shortened this play to 40 minutes with the same theme taken away from it. The play’s purpose itself was to send a message without words and only movements. The story is about a group of 30 birds set on a journey to find their ideal leader. On the way to finding this sovereign, they become encountered by seven valley obstacles where each has its own hidden secret. Many birds give up or die before reaching their unknown destination and by the end of their travel, the flock finds that their leader was all an expectation and is, in fact, not what they expected. 

“I played the hoopoe,” Rachel Rusch ‘20 said. “In my opinion, the overall theme was really just connecting with people and love. The destination will always be there, but the journey is the most important part.”

The secrets of these valleys later revealed were quest, love, knowledge, detachment, unity, wonderment, and poverty. Each valley they passed had a tie to a real theme in everyone’s life, whether it being happy or dark. The actors portraying the birds had such a sense of passion and realness that the human-like emotion behind it was easily noticed. 

“It was about birds trying to find a purpose in life,” Diego Rodriguez ‘22 said. “It’s a very religious-themed play. I think it’s very good that they have the dark and light aspects because they contrast each other and it shows that life is not always happy and peaceful.” 

Apart from portraying their characters with mental and facial aspects, the physicality of the birds took a lot of practice and research to accomplish. Many actors admitted to only perfecting their bird impersonations with a couple of weeks left till the performance.  

“It was a lot of just really trusting the company,” Nicole Boisseau ‘20 said. “You had to really go out and do something ridiculous and try to trust that no one is going to make fun of you for doing a physical risk.”

At the end of each performance, there was an interactive discussion regarding the play and the meaning behind it. The actors, directors, and tech contributors talked about the overall story and what they took away from it. They also shared their group and individual conflicts and struggles while answering questions asked by the audience.

Not only did this play show a different unique perspective on the audience, but it allowed the actors to expand their own knowledge of the subculture of Islam and Persia. Westwood Theatre plans to continue to add a variety of different aspects to create more entertaining performances.