‘BIRD’ Takes the Stage April 5 and 6

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

At the start of the pandemic, when most of us anticipated little more than a couple of weeks of mask-wearing and working from home, the world slowed down, and a lot of people turned to forgotten or long-abandoned hobbies.

For some, there was a certain appeal to bread-baking. For others, the great outdoors called. And for others still, the arts begged for attention.

Kylie Vincent, a New York City-based comedienne, found herself writing of her experience with childhood abuse, sexual violence, and survivorship. When she sent the finished project to Barbara Pitts McAdams, director and producer best known for her work on The Laramie Project, Pitts McAdams said she had no intention of moving forward with the project – that is, until she read it.

“When she sent me the first draft of “BIRD,” I thought, ‘Okay I’ll read it and say a few encouraging things to be supportive,’ but as I read it, I was so moved by the moments with strong imagery, especially as they were juxtaposed by what I call Kylie’s ‘Gen Z dark humor,’” Pitts McAdams said. “I think women are carving out an interesting performance style to tell their personal stories that then expand beyond the individual narrative.”

Written during the pandemic and workshopped in 2021, a first version of “BIRD” ran at the Kraine Theater in New York City in November. Reworked, “BIRD” has now toured venues around the country including a sold out performance in Los Angeles at the Lyric Hyperion. As a part of the current tour, Vincent will bring “BIRD” to the Mountain.

“I think women’s stories, especially in comedy, are not often amplified, and especially childhood sexual abuse – it’s often never talked about in a public setting, but it happens so frequently. I think we need to hear from young artists that are in tune with all the darkness happening in the world about how we cope through a dark sense of humor,” Vincent said. “My hope is that people can laugh and see the beauty in sharing such a hard topic onstage, for the issue to become less taboo and for long-form comedy that also has an artistic and dramatic element to reach a bigger audience. I hope that audiences feel empowered and find a little piece of ‘BIRD’ in them.”

Jim Crawford, associate professor of theatre at the University, said with April being Sexual Assault Awareness month, Vincent’s performance is particularly relevant.

“I’m really proud that we’re bringing “BIRD” to the Tennessee Williams Center. I have enormous admiration for Barbara Pitts McAdams, who was one of the creators of “The Laramie Project,” a landmark play that deals with hate crimes and the LGBTQ+ community, and she now works with college students across the country to create theatre pieces that address a variety of topical subjects,” Crawford said. “The writer and performer of the show, Kylie, is just 21-years-old and describes herself as a ‘stand-up activist’. Her show begins as a comedy routine, but evolves, and takes on serious topics in a challenging way.”

The current leg of Vincent’s tour will culminate in May with a 3-night, fully produced performance with the New Jersey Theater Alliance at Mile Square Theater in Hoboken, N.J. This performance will be done in preparation for a month-long run in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Fringe Festival.

“I make and direct a lot of interview-based plays, and I love theater that exposes social ills through personal narratives. You can quote statistics all day, but people aren’t moved to action by spreadsheets. Hearing Kylie’s authentic, personal journey makes the topics in the play so human. There is a saying: ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ By bringing the issue of child sexual assault out in the daylight, we destigmatize the trauma…,” said Pitt McAdams.

And in the process, both Pitt McAdams and Vincent both hope to help make space for other survivors to heal through sharing their stories.

“I have built a community of survivors around this show and people who resonate with it and that’s one of the most important parts about it. It’s been emotionally draining as well, it’s the first time in my life I’ve been open about being a survivor, but sharing my art with others who have been through the same thing is what makes it all worth it,” Vincent said.

Vincent will perform two shows in Sewanee, one at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 5, and another at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 6. The show is free and open to the public. For more information about Vincent’s work, visit <https://www.kylierosevincent.c...;.

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