For the Birds

National Aviary

May 4 & 11
6 p.m.

Birds become part of the creative process at the  National Aviary, conducting music via their motions, interacting with dancers and puppets and overseeing the stage.

For two days in May, in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day, Pittsburgh-based artists Daniel Allende and Tucker Marder will present For the Birds, a performance piece created for the Helen M. Schmidt FliteZone Theatre. Equal parts visual symphony and theatrical production, For the Birds incorporates trained birds with mesmerizing video, live music, dance and abstract puppetry.

A variety of parrots, a Southern Ground Hornbill, and other species will be highlighted in unique ways to tell the show’s story. Throughout the playful piece, large geometric set pieces will be animated by both humans and birds on stage, and birds will interact with the musicians and their instruments, in what the artists call “precarious cohabitation.” Discover what unfolds when a Harris hawk flies across the theater and lands on a large monolithic hat resting on the marimba player’s head. Watch as birds instinctually use sight and touch to assess their altered environment, and as avian and human characters attempt to coexist live in front of a live audience.

During rehearsals, birds have practiced specific behaviors with Aviary staff and have become familiar with the show’s customized sets. Placing performers on level footing with their avian counterparts, the theatrical collaboration aims to highlight the surreal environment, shift perspectives and inspire a new respect for the beauty and power of birds. Directed by Allende and Marder, both MFA students in Carnegie Mellon’s College of Fine Arts, For the Birds features the contributions of several local artists and CMU students, including an original score by Anthony Stultz, percussion and marimba by Colin Pinto Martin, production design by Almeda Beynon and choreography Adil Mansoor. Appropriate for all ages (kids should love!)

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...