I am on the floor building a proscenium curtain and f***ing loving it.
By Hunter Bird
So, we start tech tomorrow on a show that I'm directing at NYU. Yes, I'm a UCLA graduate as of two months ago. And yes, I'm typing this as I cut 10' panels of assorted fabrics in preparation for my instant-seam assembly line project.
This post could be an "I'm from Los Angeles, so making theatre in NYC is a completely new and exciting experience," post. But it's not.
This will be, instead, a quick post about Wounded Bird on Virgin Land, this play that Kate Douglas crafted.
In 1977, two women were biking across America. In the middle of the Oregon desert, a pickup truck ran over their tent at midnight, and both women were attacked by a axe wielding assailant and left to die. Both women survived, but the crime was never solved.
Fifteen years later, Terri Jentz (one of the women) returned to Oregon to investigate the case and interrogate the town. By activating a dialogue and allowing people who had been silenced by violence to speak, Terri was able to solve her case, and allow the community to begin to heal. This isn't a happy, safe ending though. (Sorry, Lifetime Movie deal.)
Her assailant, under the pseudonym Dick Duran, was never bought to justice because of the statute of limitations on her "attempted murder". (Because, if you didn't ACTUALLY kill someone, technically you were too incompetent to deserve the full "murder" penalty in '77 Oregonian law.)
Terri's book, Strange Piece of Paradise, inspired Kate to reach out to Terri. Long story short, Kate and I found ourselves at Terri's doorstep in Ojai, CA in March with a notebook of questions and a bottle of tequila. After a ten hour talk about justice, the nature of evil, and the history of Terri's case, Kate and I set off in a plane to Portland to begin a week long dramaturgical adventure. Over the course of 1092 miles, Kate and I traveled via rental car across the mountains of Oregon to visit Terri's nurse from her intensive hospitalization (Marcy), the women who helped Terri solve her crime (Dee Dee), and the woman who found Terri after the attack and drove her to the hospital (Boo). (Asking an 84 year old woman if she thinks people are born evil was intense, but not as intense as her answer.)
This dramaturgy trip plugged me into the WHY AM I DOING THIS PLAY question. I want to do it justice because I'm so invested in the WHY. While the play uses Terri's story as a focal point, it asks larger questions about inherited traumas that Americans continue to pass down. I'm interested in how we, as Americans, continue to fabric myths and pass them down to our children, and how cycles of violence fossilize into cultural identities.
So, here's to being in NYC working on a play that I care about.
And, if nothing else, the play has a smell designer. A. Smell. Designer.