For the Skull and Dagger Society, the show must go on

The+crew+pulled+together+the+opening+night+and+matinee+performance+for+the+last+theater+show.

Photo courtesy of Renee Le Tourneau

The crew pulled together the opening night and matinee performance for the last theater show.

by Catlan Nguyen, Staff Writer

San Diego State’s Skull and Dagger Society put on the last Professional Studies of Fine Arts production of the semester as all other plays, concerts and dance recitals have been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

The play, “Stupid F*cking Birds,” had an invite-only showing in the Don Powell Theatre on March 12. They will also have a matinee showing March 13 at 1 p.m.

They didn’t pull it off alone, but with the whole class, including people who won’t be able to show their theater creations with coronavirus impacts.

“In times of fear, in times of hysteria, I think that theater and telling these stories bring people hope and I’m really, really striving for our show to do that and bring our community together in this awfulness,” theater performance senior Annie Klups said. 

Klups said she feels extremely lucky their production can still go on in some form, but her heart goes out to all the other productions and performances that can’t tell their stories, especially knowing all the hard work they’ve put into it.

“My friend, Annie, actually said the other day — she was really upset, she was crying — and she said to all of us rehearsing ‘Go on for all of us,’” Klups said. “It’s been really rough.”

Klups and the rest of the team found out about the halt to all PSFA productions just two days before their opening night. 

They found out their showings were cancelled on March 12 around 1 p.m., and everyone worked nonstop to make the last-minute showings amazing. President of Skull and Dagger Eric Clark said an entire theater class helped them put the whole show together.

“I think Kian put it really well when he said this is an exercise in empathy,” Clark said. “It’s very easy for us to be selfish and to wonder why it’s happening to us. We have to understand this is for a lot of other people who may be affected by this virus and we’re grateful to do the performances at all.”

As the last play of the semester, “Stupid F*cking Birds” stands out not just because of the circumstances but also because of the immersive and interactive experience it gives to the audience through humorous and tear-jerking conversations.

It was a full house March 12 with the audience seated on stage circling the set and cast.

“I came because I’m friends with the director and my best friend is in the cast too and I just wanted to be here to support all of them,” San Diego State alumnus Athena Assalone said. “I actually called out of work to be here.”

Actors met with the audience before the show in character and had full-on discussions.

This play is a modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” and follows the life of struggling playwright Con (Conrad) as he desperately tries to write a new play.

Con’s desire to create new theater that enacts social change clashes with other characters, especially his mom, Emma who is a believer in traditional, older theater.

“There is kind of a protagonist and antagonist but no one is all bad and no one is all good,” Klups said. “You can see truth in every single one of the characters and they all have redeeming qualities and flaws. I think people will really connect with the characters.”

The play is unique in that it pulls the audience onto stage and literally into its world while incorporating different music genres such as funk and disco, general theater senior and director Kian Kline said.

The play also referenced modern day issues such as SDSU switching to online classes and modern politics.

The play brought the audience on stage to engage them throughout the night.

“It’s a new way of approaching theater,” Kline said. “It’s all about how do we take people away from what they’re used to and place them in something new that may be hard for them but challenges them to think about it after they leave.”

The rehearsal process had a lot more character work than other productions Klups has been a part of, Klups said. 

“We just dug so deep into the lives and the stories of these characters and the relationships,” Klups said. “It’s been a really emotional process. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a rehearsal room where everyone has cared as much as they do.”

Klups plays Emma, Con’s mom, who is also an actress in the play and she said she’s found a method to play Emma as a three-dimensional character versus someone who’s just seen as the antagonist. She also noted how Emma is probably her favorite character she played.

Klups based her performance of Emma off of her own mom because the character is caring and fiercely honest. Emma isn’t afraid to speak the truth if it’ll help.

The set design was a simple backyard with birchwood trees and a painting of Anton Chekhov in the background. Different types of rugs are placed on the stage floor to give a chaotic but unified feeling.

“Other than seeing a couple trees and rugs on the floor, everything is just open to the audience and they get to see lighting fixtures turn on and they get to see some of our crew running around backstage,” civil engineer senior and set designer Finn Mitchel said. “They get to be a part of the experience as much as the actors are.”

Audience members became a part of the lighting crew when they were prompted to use their phone flashlights to change the mood of a scene.

At the end, the show earned a standing ovation, though it was bittersweet. Tickets for the matinee showing on March 13 will be on a first-come first-serve basis starting at 10 a.m.

Outside of the Don Powell Theatre at SDSU.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email