“Birds of North America” is, above all, a play about connection. Written by playwright Anna Ouyang Moench, the show follows the relationship of a father and daughter over a span of 10 years, dealing both with their struggles to understand one another and the urgent problem of climate change. The show made its regional premiere at Mosaic Theater on October 27 and will run until November 21. I recently spoke with director Serge Seiden about the show’s themes, what resonates with him about the work and the return of in-person performances.
District Fray: Can you tell me a bit about “Birds of North America”?
Serge Seiden: The show’s wonderful playwright, Anna Ouyang Moench, is originally from the Baltimore area. This is the first regional production on the East Coast, which is great because her parents came to the show recently. It was cool to meet them because it’s sort of a semi-autobiographical play. It’s not direct at all, but because the play is so much about family, it was fun to meet her parents. And they were gracious and enjoyed the production.
Why “Birds of North America” now?
I’ve been listening to the radio and reading articles about climate change a lot lately, and one of the things that really resonated with me is we all have to start taking climate change into our sector. Wherever we work, whatever we do, we have to bring the climate crisis to the table and make sure it’s part of the conversation. I think as a theatre artist, it’s rare to find a play in which climate change is just there. In [“Birds of North America”], the characters talk about it in a way that’s very familiar to audiences. So making it personal and part of what we do every day helps bring awareness – and hopefully, it asks people to think about it and change their behavior in some ways.
What also resonated with me and the people on the committee that chose the play is it is a play about relationships, especially intergenerational relationships. Many of us were separated from our loved ones during the pandemic, so when we were reading the play about a year ago, we thought it was important to do at this moment because it focuses on how important it is to maintain close relationships. The message is kind of to seize the day because you never know what’s going to happen with your loved ones. In the play, birding represents many things, but one is that it allows this father and daughter — who are very different — to connect. It’s also a way for the dad to pass something on that he cares about. He can be a very difficult person, but his daughter is able to appreciate it and even put her own spin on it.
It feels like there’s this sense of urgency that drives the play, both in its message to connect with the people around us and in the bigger problems of climate change.
That’s a really excellent observation because the other piece [about the play] I’ve been hearing about is climate grief: this grief over what’s happening with the world, [which we keep] very internal and private. We should communicate how we’re feeling about our relationships with each other and with the climate because before you know it, it’ll be gone. And then we won’t have said what we needed to say.
What’s your goal in terms of audience impact?
For the theater industry, I think it’s important for people just to come back to the theater and remember why they loved it in the first place. We’re all used to watching “Squid Game” and a million other Netflix shows. But in the theater, you’re able to experience exceptional in-person performances, and commune and have a catharsis with other people in the room. I read somewhere that when people are in a room together, their heart rates and breath synchronize. They’re having the same experience. And there’s something powerful we lose when we’re sitting at home watching TV. We just need to get people back to remembering that wonderful and satisfying feeling.
“Birds of North America” runs through November 21. To learn more about the play and purchase show tickets, visit Mosaic Theater’s site here.
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