The UCSC theater department, in its latest production, explores the vast question: “Why should we care about art?” Aaron Posner’s “Stupid Fucking Bird,” directed by fifth-year Katherine Burris, continues this weekend in the Experimental Theater.
“Stupid Fucking Bird” is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play-within-a-play “The Seagull” written in 1895. “Stupid Fucking Bird” follows Con, an aspiring playwright and the son of a famous actress, on his quest to change theater into something more powerful and lively.
“[Con is] looking for a way to make [theater] more vital, more relevant, more accessible,” Burris said. “A huge problem today is that very few people see live theater or find it irrelevant. Budget cuts are really affecting the arts. The message of the play is that art needs to change.”
All the while, Con is in love with Nina, the performer of the play he is writing, who is in love with Doyle, a well-known writer. “Stupid Fucking Bird” features other characters who share smashed dreams and attempt to compromise with life, such as Mash who sings her feelings through a ukulele ballad, Dev who is in pursuit of her and Sorn, a dying philosophical doctor.
One unique aspect of this play is the characters in the play are aware that they are indeed characters in a play. The cast will address the audience and at points, will even refer to themselves as actors in a play.
“One of the themes in the play is this idea of cycles and how we’re just repeating what others have done before us,” said second-year and assistant director Odessa Cross. “The characters are aware of the cyclical nature of the world so we see efforts from them to break these cycles — to consciously go against the narrative that God or Chekhov or who the fuck ever has set out for them.”
At a time when UCSC is suffering from a cycle of art programs, budget cuts and adamant opposition, “Stupid Fucking Bird,” addresses art’s relevance through its mission to depict art as dynamic and meaningful to society.
“Budget cuts are really affecting the arts,” Burris said. “Universities such as UC Santa Cruz, where arts funding and programs have been slashed for ‘more lucrative’ fields of study raise the question ‘why make art?’”
For example, the theater company Shakespeare Santa Cruz, after 32 years, was cut last summer, evoking strong reactions from the theater community.
“When I found out that UCSC dropped Shakespeare Santa Cruz, I was really upset because it goes to show that the school’s priorities are elsewhere,” said fourth-year and stage manager Rebecca Ehlinger. “It doesn’t really make sense to me for a big public university such as UCSC to not be as diverse as possible. A public university has a duty to reach out to its community in any way possible.”
The passionate cast of “Stupid Fucking Bird” hopes to show its audience the significance of art in society.
“It’s so important to be aware of art in our communities and in our own lives,” Cross said. “Art helps us to be more aware as people and helps us to live our lives fuller and more consciously. Everyone who is working on this show is incredibly passionate about the work they do and theater in Santa Cruz.”
See “Stupid Fucking Bird” at the Experimental Theater May 29 – June 1. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances will be held at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday performances at 3 p.m.
General admission is $12, while seniors (62+), youth and non-UCSC students w/ ID are $11.
UCSC students with ID get one free ticket. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Theater Arts ticket office Tuesday through Saturday, 12-4 p.m.