This Thursday, April 10, Theatre for Young Audiences will present Bird Talk, a re-imagining of the Persian poem “Conference of the Birds.” The performance will take place in Seaver Theatre, 300 East Bonita Ave. in Claremont, at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.
Students from Pomona College and the other Claremont Colleges have spent the year working with middle and high school students from Fremont Academy of Engineering & Design in Pomona to create the play from start to finish. The fall semester focused “on skill-building, community-building and generating text for our spring performance,” and the spring semester “on rehearsal, producing and performance,” says Rose Portillo, Pomona College Class of 1975, the play's director and course instructor.
This is the seventh year of the Theatre for Young Audiences program, a collaboration between Fremont, Pomona College's Department of Theatre and Dance and The Draper Center for Community Partnerships.
“We do team building exercises with the Fremont students and encourage them to write about their experiences in their environments,” says Danielle Davis '15. “As college mentors, we serve as mediators, advisors and friends to the students. What makes this play special is the dedication and development of the students over the production process.”
The source material for the performance is the Persian poem “Conference of the Birds,” and included in the rendition are original elements of mime, puppetry and a song written by an eighth-grade Fremont Academy student and set to music by three college mentors. In all, 35 Fremont students and 25 college student mentors are participating. The script was created by the students and the director.
“Birds are known for their powers of observation,” Portillo says, describing the play. “And the birds in our story are more than tired of their observations. So a conference is called.”
“Everywhere I look, I see nothing but quarrels, fights, wars. ... humans are destructive... argumentative. If they destroy themselves, they'll destroy us, too."
“The birds decide to make a difficult and dangerous journey in search of Wise Bird. A bird no one has ever seen, much less met. As they travel, they are forced to land in four different valleys and witness what youth encounter daily in their neighborhoods, schools, hangouts and homes.”
The production is part of the Mellon Elemental Arts Initiative at Pomona College, under the theme of “air.”