In the unlikely location of a chicken factory in a small Tennessee town, a young man unfolds his soul journey and finds himself. In Twobird, performed by Michael McCamish, and directed and choreographed by Maria Lexa, Sun & Moon Ensemble presents a unique blend of penetrating social commentary and rich visual poetry, with a sprinkling of humor and irony. Dance, movement, and mask play combine with narration and naturalism. The main character conjures up vivid scenes portraying the various characters in his life, and Michael McCamish, who also contributed texts for the piece, plays all the roles with precision and mastery. The dynamic musical score for Twobird is created and performed live by Nils Frykdahl and Chuck Squier. The show will be presented at the historic South Berkeley Community Church, which has been declared a Berkeley City landmark. Refreshments will be available, and for those interested, a discussion with the artists will follow the performance.
THE STORY - The protagonist, Malcolm Bruce, comes from a town where you either work in the chicken factory or the prison, and where blacks and whites live on their separate sides of the railway tracks. His grandfather and namesake was broken by his experiences as a POW during world War II, so Malcolm’s father decides to do his fighting from the pulpit and becomes a charismatic Southern preacher. Malcolm’s mother dies in childbirth, and he is raised by a God-fearing black “mammy” from the other side of the tracks. Malcolm reaches an age where he begins testing his father’s will and his upbringing. At this time, he comes under the influence of Vidar, a traveling musician with magnetic charm and seductive philosophy. Malcolm’s lust for life is awakened, and he falls head over heels for his Mammy’s niece, Mae Bella, a charming night club singer. But when he discovers that his mentor Vidar, has stolen his lover, Malcolm is overcome with passion, and attempts violent revenge on Vidar. He is sentenced to prison, where he confronts the harsh reality of prison culture. There he leads a lonely existence, tortured by recurring dreams of his Uncle Ed, a brutal prison guard. As a reward for good behavior, Malcolm is paroled as a line worker in the chicken factory, “slaughtering 182 birds a minute”. Through a crisis and personal epiphany, Malcolm discovers meaning in a life of hardship, and finds his own strength of spirit.
CREATING THE PRODUCTION - The concept for the piece was developed collaboratively by director Maria Lexa and Michael McCamish, who has been a main actor with Sun & Moon Ensemble since 2002, in both outdoor and indoor performances. Michael McCamish worked for two years in a chicken factory. He also has 13 years experience as a social worker and a Ph.D in social and cultural anthropology. He studied theatre with Eugenio Barba, director of Odin Teatret in Denmark, and has done arts-related work with prisoners in several European countries as well as at San Quentin here in California. Michael’s social commitment comes through with force in the piece he has authored, and he conjures images of his native Tennessee with deep intensity. Sun & Moon Ensemble’s Artistic Director Maria Lexa worked for 20 years at the forefront of the European arts scene as actress, master teacher, theatre group leader, and international festival organizer, and headed her own non-profit company, Foreningen Freja in Århus, Denmark. In 2001 she founded the Sun and Moon Ensemble in San Francisco, known for its masterful physical theatre and imaginative mask work, giant puppets, live music, and vivid visual expression.
Multi-instrumentalist/singer/composer Nils Frykdahl and drummer/percussionist Chuck Squier came into prominence in the 90’s in Idiot Flesh, a highly successful Bay Area musical group with absurdist stage spectacles. Chuck Squier is also an accomplished visual artist and craftsman, who collaborated on designing the sets and the program for Twobird.. For 11 years, Nils Frykdahl has been a member of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, whose sold-out performances and widely praised recordings have established them as one of the most influential groups in the American creative rock underground. In recent years he has toured extensively in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand with SGM and with Faun Fables with Dawn McCarthy.
The artists in Twobird were fortunate to be able to develop the production as well as present it at South Berkeley Community Church in the historic Lorin district of Berkeley. Built in 1912, the building is noted for its unique architecture designed by Hugo Storch. In 1943, the Church became Berkeley’s first interracial congregation and today still distinguishes itself through its commitment to community service, including its weekly youth program and its hunger program, which serves meals to the homeless. The Thursday, March 19th preview will benefit the church’s hunger program.
THE COLLABORATORS - Maria Lexa and Michael McCamish joining forces in Twobird has produced a dynamic and many faceted performance. Hand crafted masks by Danish artist Kirsten Gitz-Johansen and local artist Christina Shonkwiler enhance the magic and mystery the of the production. Berkeley textile artist Ashley Foster collaborated in creating the set, and San Francisco designer Laura Hazlitt contributed to the costuming. Lighting design is by Allen Willner, recipient of the prestigious Isadora Award. Photos, postcard, and poster design are by veteran Sun & Moon member John Spicer. Multi-artist Ivana Lexa-French created the shadow puppets, and webmaster Domingo Vazquez designed the promotional emails and videos.
THE AUDIENCES – Twobird plans a tour for high school students, and is appropriate for that age group, but not for youth under 13. However, Twobird appeals to all adult audiences, and anyone who has ever questioned their religion, rebelled against their parents, worked an undesirable job, lost a loved one, experienced betrayal, fallen in love, or eaten a roast chicken will find common themes and inspiration in this unusual and moving performance.