Drawing Them In
Fantastical play features original music, resplendent costumes and ... puppets!
by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
This glorious peacock outfit, worn by Dana Lopatin, was created by Associate Professor of Theatre & Dance Sherry Harper-McCombs and students in the theatre & dance program. It is just one of the many student-fashioned costumes featured in the spring production. Photo by Pierce Bounds '71.
At its surface, The
Conference of the Birds is a simple tale about a gaggle of birds that gather together to decide who will be their king. But despite its light-as-a-feather approach, it taps
hefty universal themes: life and death, love and loss, spiritualism, unity
That’s a lot of symbolic weight to rest on such simple,
delicate wings. But the audience comes right along for the ride.
Based on a poem by a 12th-century mystic, The Conference of the Birds creates a
magical realm that draws audiences in with help from original music by area
resident Janet Spahr and Asssistant Professor of French Ian Andrew MacDonald
and fantastical costumes and puppetry created by students and Associate
Professor of Theatre & Dance Sherry Harper-McCombs.
Directed by Associate Professor of Theatre & Dance Karen
Kirkham, the production was inspired by Harper-McCombs’ trip last spring to
Arezzo, Italy, where she took intensive workshops in traditional puppetry and
leather-mask-making at the Accademia dell’Arte. Back at Dickinson, Harper-McCombs used those experiences to help students fashion 10
puppets that soar about the stage and to design fanciful costumes and masks for 18 characters. Some of the costumes include moveable parts; a
particularly elaborate peacock costume requires two dressers to help the actor
Sydney Moffatt ’14, who plays the role of the birds’
spiritual guide, was among the students who took part in that semesterlong
Moffatt brought a good deal of experience to the task,
having traveled with a group of students to Italy in January to take workshops
at the Accademia dell’Arte, and having worked with Harper-McCombs as a Dana
Student Research Assistant last summer, helping to design
and construct costumes for a theatre in Virginia. She feels that helping to
design her own costume helped her flesh out her character—figuratively as well
Asked to pinpoint how long it takes to create each costume,
Harper-McCombs is inexact. “Every production takes up every second of
the time you allow for it whether that time is two weeks, six weeks or six
years,” she explains. “We have been working on this production in one way or
another since we got back at the beginning of this semester, so that is about
how long this show seems to take!”
Mathers Theatre (Holland Union Building)
Friday, April 5, 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 6, 8 p.m.
Monday, April 8, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, April 9, 8 p.m.
Tickets available online or at the box office.
Regular admission: $7; student admission: $5.
Sentinel’s article about this production.
View more arts events: The
Calendar of Arts.