Berkeley, CA – November 2015 – This November the UC Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) presents A Murder of Crows, Mac Wellman’s dark comedy on humanity and hypocrisy. Directed by TDPS associate professor Peter Glazer, this surrealist story of a young woman railing against a decaying world runs November 19-22, 2015 in Durham Studio Theater on the UC Berkeley campus. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office or at the door. Playwright Mac Wellman will be in residence at TDPS the week of the performances; he will speak about his work during several free events (more info below).
Set in a hellish ecological nightmare, replete with gassy yellow miasma and oil-polluted oceans quivering like custard, A Murder of Crows follows a dysfunctional small-town family overwhelmed by economic disparity and blurred moral lines. Unmoored by the gruesome death of her father and resentful of her long-suffering mother, rebellious young Susannah attempts to anchor herself by predicting the erratic weather. With her war veteran brother turning into a golden sundial in the front yard, and the rest of her family growing ever more noxious, Susannah wavers between subverting the degraded society she inhabits or withdrawing completely. Overseeing Susannah’s struggle is a Greek chorus of softshoe-dancing crows who offer philosophical commentary on the meaning of heaven, god, and life on earth.
Exploring environmental destruction, rampant consumerism, and the rise of xenophobia, A Murder of Crows hilariously exposes humanity’s hypocrisy and its poisonous effect on the world. Originally written in response to the Gulf War but as relevant as ever, this disruptive depiction of America challenges audiences to evaluate their impact on the world and those around them.
Director Peter Glazer has long been fascinated by playwright Mac Wellman, an icon for contemporary innovative writing. “As someone who not only directs, but also studies how plays work and how playwrights think and how theater functions, I find his ideas very powerful and beautiful,” says Glazer. In particular, Glazer is intrigued by A Murder of Crows because of the play’s vibrant, poetic language and resonant message. “It’s relevance feels immediate, and the stakes feel extremely pertinent to what’s going on in the country right now. ”
Glazer reached out to Wellman, who runs the MFA playwriting program at Brooklyn College and has trained a number of now sought-after playwrights, to see if he’d be interested in coming to Berkeley as an artist in residence. Says Glazer, “the whole residency developed because Mac’s a living playwright and he’s an educator. It just seemed like a great possibility if he was interested—and he was!”
Mac Wellman will be in residence for the entire run of A Murder of Crows. In addition to visiting classes and meeting with students, he will participate in What’s the Story: Oracles of Lost Realism on Friday, November 20 from 4:00-5:30PM in Durham Studio Theater, along with Rude Mechs, a theater collective based in Austin, Texas that has been influenced by Wellman’s work. The event gathers a poet, a playwright, a theater collective, a director and a dramaturge to muse on theatrical realism, narrative tropes, and contemporary unsettlings.
Additionally, following the 2:00PM performance of A Murder of Crows on Saturday, November 21, Mac will join in conversation with Carey Perloff, Artistic Director of ACT in San Francisco, to discuss the play and answer questions from audience members. Says Glazer, “Mac’s visit gives us an opportunity to go beyond just reading the play. We get to expand our intellectual and theoretical experience by interacting with and asking questions of the playwright who created this world. It raises the stakes and deepens the pedagogical experience.”
A Murder of Crows opens Thursday, November 19 and continues through Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the Durham Studio Theater on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. General admission tickets are $18 online and $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online and $15 at the door. Tickets are now on sale online through the TDPS Box Office.
A Murder of Crows features the acting talents of UC Berkeley students H. Nicole Anderson, Ran Flanders, Sean Fortenberry, Anna Easteden, Tiana Randall-Quant, Samuel Peurach, Cecily Schmidt, Mia Semelman and Sahori Tiffany Sumita, as well as the work of Chrissy Curl (set design), Balentin Lugo (costume design), Dylan Feldman (lighting design), Danyel Mann (choreography) and Maya Kronfeld (composition).
The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.
About Peter Glazer
Peter Glazer is a playwright, director, and Associate Professor at UC Berkeley in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies. For TDPS, he has directed plays by José Rivera, Maria Irene Fornes, Howard Barker, Harold Pinter, and now Mac Wellman. Two of his own plays have been produced by TDPS as well: Foe, based on the novel by J.M. Coetzee, and his own musical theater piece, Woody Guthrie’s American Song. Next fall, TDPS will mount Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War, co-written with composer Eric Bain Peltoniemi, to mark the 80th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War.
About Mac Wellman
Mac Wellman is a playwright and poet. His recent work includes Muazzez at The Chocolate Factory as part of the 2014 PS 122 COIL Festival; 3 2’s; or AFAR at Dixon Place in October 2011. His books of poetry include Miniature (2002), Strange Elegies (2006), Split the Stick (2012) from Roof Books, and Left Glove (2011) from Solid Objects Press. His novel Linda Perdido won the 2011 FC2 Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction. He is Distinguished Professor of Playwriting at Brooklyn College.