Bird House

The Making Of: a photo tour by heidihandelsman
July 25, 2009, 6:35 pm
Filed under: Notes on the Play

Somehow, through dedication, will power, brilliance, cacophony, and sheer insanity, BIRD HOUSE is up and running.  In fact, it has almost run its course!  We close on Sunday!  So much energy and beauty and sparkle was thrown up onto that stage, but on Sunday night we need to give the stage back to its owners.  It never truly belonged to us; we were just visitors.  It’s the true magic/tragedy of theatre.  And life itself…

And the culinary arts, in a way.  You can spend all day or all week shopping for a fantastic meal.  You chop, dice, saute, bake, prepare in however many ways, and finally you plate.  It’s beautiful.  You eat it.  It’s delicious, heavenly, the most flavorful dish ever.  And then its gone.  And there’s nothing left to do but the dishes.  But let us not forget about digestion.  BIRD HOUSE, as it turns out, requires a lot of digestion.  A smoothy this is not.  You probably shouldn’t exercise for at least two hours after viewing.

So before we take this show apart, I thought I’d take you on a tour of how we put it together.  A photo tour!

The Set

Here is a model of our gorgeous set!  Sara Walsh is a genius, in case you couldn’t tell.  One idea that the whole design team latched onto was the image of the patchwork quilt, in the script.  It’s “made from all the old clothes we grew out of.”  Everyone agreed that this was a patchwork world, made of old things and re-appropriated, cobbled-together.  The actual set is made almost entirely from found objects — we culled street corners on trash night for weeks!  The good people of the New York Metropolitan Area discarded almost everything we could possibly need, and an incredible crew put together Sara’s up-cycled set.  Gorgeous!

Christina and Cotton  Leg Grab

These are a couple of my favorite images from rehearsals.  These women have AMAZING instincts for character and physicality.  My favorite memory from the first day of rehearsal was a conversation that went something like this:

COTTON: I don’t think Louisy leaves the house.  At all.

HEIDI: Not even to collect flowers and mushrooms from the patch of grass below the treehouse?

COTTON: Well, yes, OK, but she never goes far.  She never goes into town.

CHRISTINA: Not even to go to the store?

COTTON: Syl goes to the store for her.

CHRISTINA (AS SYL): What about ice cream?  Remember that time I tried to bring an ice cream cone home for you?  We had a big melty mess.  Don’t you to come out with me for an ice cream cone?

COTTON (AS LOUISY): (Bites lip, contemplative silence.) 

The Gun

The gun.  The gun is a genuine replica of a Civil War -era gun (which, we learned, is the sort of gun real cowboys used, in the wild west — verisimilitude!).  We had to go through a lot of poses to find ones that didn’t make Christina look like a sexy spy, gangster, or Charlie’s Angel.  She’s too sexy for her gun.


Puppets!  Here is one of our beloved cuckoo-clock birds, naked and barely out of the womb.  But very beautiful!

Andy and a bird

Here is puppet-designer-extraordinaire Andy with an early prototype of the wild bird.  I wish I had taken photos at our first puppet design meeting — we took over a large table at a cute french coffee shop, and covered every available surface with picture books about antique toys and birds, sketches, and puppets.  We threw beanbags around, to see how they landed.  No one stopped us.

Alex Shooting

Big Day of Video Magic!  Whereas most Americans spent the morning of Saturday, July 4th either sleeping or preparing the barbeque, we joined Alex for a morning of filming.  Someday in the future, projection design will be a recognized category at the Tony awards.  When that happens, Alex will win one.  Above, Alex is filming, Shannon is managing, and Wendy and Kylie are patiently waiting for their big moment.  


Shannon and Alex’s trusty associate Jenna make the locket fly.


And here’s Christina and Cotton dressed as the mysterious Ancients, but goofing like themselves.

Cotton & Ice Cream

And here is, perhaps, my most favorite image of all.  Here is Cotton at the Tick Tock Diner, where we met up for a Louisy meeting.  It’s 9:30 in the morning.  Across the table, I am devouring a vegetable omelet.  When Cotton ordered, the waiter did a double take.

All these wonderful things!  And now, we’ve got to pack it up and fly away.  Prepare for lift-off…

-Heidi Handelsman


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