Bakersfield College’s outdoor production of “The Birds” has little, if any, connection to the Alfred Hitchcock suspense film with the same title.
Far from it, actually, since it’s a comedy written in 441 BC by a Greek playwright named Aristophanes and it’s just as funny today as it was in ancient times.
Even funnier, perhaps, given the Mel Brooks-inspired touches BC drama professor Kimberly Chin has added to the play, which opens Friday in a make-shift space between the BC gym and Memorial Stadium.
Chin grew up watching the comedian and said she couldn’t help but think of Brooks as she was adapting “The Birds,” especially the Roman segment of his film “History of the World Part I.”
“Aristophanes is very playful with his words and has created some truly hilarious characters,” she said. “Like Mel Brooks, we have meshed ancient times with modern terms and references.”
Audraey Torres, who plays Iris, daughter of the Greek god Zeus, applauds Chin’s adaptation of the play.
“Kim’s made it much more understandable for modern audiences,” she said. “There are references to Steven Seagal and Kim Kardashian and some of the most amazing songs you’ll ever hear.”
One of those songs — “Zeus’ Fall,” a parody of the Oscar-winning song, “Skyfall” — will be sung by Torres.
The play’s satirical plot concerns two citizens of Athens who enlist the aid of the birds’ kingdom to reduce the power of the gods in a plan to cut off their access to humans by creating a new city in the sky — a sort of utopia.
Jotae Fraser, who plays a man called Pisthetaerus, said his character is clever, quick and very persuasive.
“We drink a potion that changes us into birds,” Fraser said. “I’m a crow, the most intelligent of all birds.”
Face masks, some of them adorned with brilliantly colored feathers and jewels are an important part of the play as they serve to identify the particular species the actor is portraying.
To appear as a crow, Fraser dons a feathery black mask that clings to the top of his head and covers his eyes.
“This is the first play I’ve done with a mask, and I like it,” he said. “It helps me get an idea of the character; Pisthetærus is very ambitious and always has a plan; he’s thinking: ‘This is my plan, I don’t want to mess this up.’”
Fraser, who appeared in “A Flea in Her Ear” and “Faust” while at BC, plans to transfer to a four-year institution in September. He’s been accepted by California Institute of the Arts in Valencia and Chapman University in Orange County but said it probably will be Cal Arts.
“The Birds,” which continues on April 26, 27, and 28, will be presented outdoors, just as it was in ancient times. The performances start at 5 p.m. and end at sundown.
“We are bringing in metal benches and a few seats for those with special physical needs,” Chin said. We recommend our audience comes prepared for weather conditions and they might consider bringing seat cushions as they do for sporting events.”
Children younger than 6 years will not be admitted, Chin said, adding that this particular play by Aristophanes can be considered bawdier than much of Shakespeare’s work. At the time it was written, women and children were prohibited from attending Greek comedic performances due to the perceived raciness of the content.
BC art show
Expect to see a range of techniques, processes and materials in the annual Bakersfield College art students’ exhibition that opens this evening on campus at the Jones Gallery.
“All the work is strong, but there are some large charcoal pieces from Laura Borneman’s drawing courses that are really outstanding,” said art department chair David Koeth. “There is also a strong body of photographic work.”
The show features both two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. It also includes pieces from the ceramics and the design courses.
Koeth also shared some information about a new studio arts degree that will be available starting in September.
“The newest development for the art department this year is the recent approval of the AA-T or transfer degree in studio arts,” he said.
“This will allow graduates to seamlessly transfer to a CSU campus. We’re really hoping that students take advantage of this new degree.
With an emphasis on bluegrass, four different bands with entertain Saturday afternoon at the second annual Americana Festival.
Except for the Celtic group Banshee in the Kitchen, all of the groups play music that originated in the United States, said Shari Fortino, one of the organizers.
“Americana is mostly acoustic style music,” she said. “Celtic isn’t normally under that heading but bluegrass has its roots in Celtic — actually, lots of music does. And we really like Banshee.”
In the Nick of Time, the Roustabouts and Slideways are the other groups that will perform in the pole barn at Murray Family Farms. Seating is on hay bales and chairs will also be provided.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at World Records, California Keyboards or online at murrayfamilyfarms.com.
New online journal
The first issue of the Levan Humanities Review is now accessible online and soon will be available in a print.
“We're arranging to have a very nice, inexpensive hard copy version through Amazon.com,” said Jack Hernandez, editor of the journal, which is a publication of the Norman Levan Center for the Humanities based at Bakersfield College.
It features articles, essays, book reviews, and poetry that contribute to readers’ understanding of the humanities in general and more specifically to the humanities in relation to science and medicine. The journal is limited to local writers.
Hernandez said he would welcome work from people who are professionals in other fields — doctors or lawyers, for example, who might write on the legal and scientific aspects of bioethics as they relate to visual art, literature, theater, history, the social sciences and other areas of the humanities.
Submissions for the 2014 edition must be received by Dec. 1, 2013. For guidelines, call Hernandez at 395-4339 or go to www2.bakersfieldcollege.edu/LHR/