Doreen, a mentally unstable homeless person steals a coat belonging to a working professional, Beth, who is about to have her first child. Through the coat, Doreen begins to assume the identity of Beth, a 30 something pregnant, urban professional as she tries to remember events in her own life, suppressed by her many medications. When Beth actually encounters Doreen wearing the now stained and dirty jacket, she feels violated, angry, and imagines Doreen is stalking her. She fears for the safety of her unborn child, her home and wishes Doreen would just… disappear. The play explores the boundaries of reality and fantasy, as fear takes over in Beth’s mind – fear that the world is no longer safe and those that threaten the safety of others should be eliminated. With echoes of post 9/11 and the erosion of human rights in the world today, The Morning Bird finds a domestic exploration of the seeds and consequences of feeding fear.
The Morning Bird premiered at NotaBle Acts Theatre Company, Fredericton, NB in July 2005 and was directed by Bill Lane and starred Tracey Ferencz, Jim Jones, Debra Kirshenbaum and Robbie O’Neill.
The French production premiered at Théâtre populaire d’Acadie, Caraquet, NB in March 2009 and toured NB. It was translated from English and directed by Maurice Arsenault and starred Karéne Chiasson, André Roy, Claire Normand and Albert Belzile.
It occurred to me as I drove home after The Morning Bird, the opening show of this year’s Notable Acts Summer Theatre Festival, that when it works, what theatre does is offer us the chance to share together in the magic darkened space what Shakespeare called the fierce vexation of a dream. A dreamlike reality which we feel to be coherent in ways we don’t quite grasp, a reality which is composed of equal parts random fantasy and inexorable reason, a reality which we know not to be real in just the moments when we feel most threatened by it, when we think, no, stop, when we know that any minute the alarm will go off, the doorbell will ring, the lights will come up, and we’ll recognize that, no, after all, it was, just as we suspected all along, a trick. Colleen Wagner’s challenging and in some ways daunting script was the occasion for that reflection, and it was so in large part because so much of the play occurs in the kind of ambiguous space we inhabit in dreams, where people we sort of know appear in various incarnations, in situations distantly related to others we remember more clearly, where ideas and objects acquire strange and apparently arbitrary significance and emotional weight that somehow really aren’t arbitrary at all. In The Morning Bird, the most oddly significant object is an expensive Italian coat which as the play opens has just been “borrowed” by a street person, and which comes to be of inordinate significance not only to its owner, a near-hysterical woman in the late term of a pregnancy, and her doting, confused and (mostly) helpless husband, but also to the deranged and struggling woman who steals it. Doreen, the street person who has, well, borrowed the coat from the waiting room at the hospital, is in many ways the whirling center of the play, and Debra Kirshenbaum gives her a vivid, gesticulatory, voluble warmth that is surprisingly attractive We come to share her ambiguous and guilty relationship to the coat, which serves not only to keep her, as she says, from “freezing her butt off,” but also stands in for lots of things she doesn’t have, including the baby that the coat’s owner, Beth, is about to have. … This is theatre doing what it’s supposed to do. – Russ Hunt. Russ Hunt Reviews.
The Morning Bird production sings. – Carolyn Van Der Veen. The Daily Gleaner
The Morning Bird was published in 2009 by Scirocco Drama.