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The Folger Spotlight

Jay Dunn's Production Diary: The End of a Journey - Gratitude & Goodbyes

Actor Jay Dunn concludes his bloggin tour de force during his run of The Conference of the Birds here…with his post written just before closing weekend (just past). Here, Jay writes about his experiences throughout the run, what he has learned, and what is next in his “Birds” journey. Enjoy…

cast & crew of “Birds”

Well, here we are. Closing weekend of The Conference of the Birds. This show has been as much an experience as it has been a performance. It has asked the audience to come along on a ride with the actors, to ask themselves the questions we ask ourselves onstage. And this show has asked us, the creative team, to experience, as ourselves, many of the stages in the script itself. We have weathered a hurricane, pushed through and overcome injuries, and grappled in our own lives with the questions the script posed: What are we searching for? What are we attached to? What holds us back? What goals push us forward? How do we see ourselves? Throughout this process we have seen old relationships die and new ones forged, we have experienced death, new life, and the shedding of old skins for new. It has been an encounter in personal and emotional dramaturgy that I don’t think any of us expected, but that every one of us immediately accepted (be it with fear, excitement, anxiety, joy). We have done it with a great deal of respect and love for one another and, from the feedback we have received, I think that has shone through the story for our audiences. I hope the questions we have asked opened some cage doors and sparked personal reflection in our audiences’ lives. The people involved in this project have become a small family, more so than any other project I have ever worked on. And, fittingly, as we enter our closing weekend post-Thanksgiving, for that I am grateful.

(l to r) Robert Barry Fleming, Jay Dunn, Jens Rasmussen

I am especially grateful at how hard The Folger has worked to bring in such a diverse audience – Sufi scholars, students of Persian history, culture and language, the DC/MD/VA Iranian media and community. It surprised me to learn that Attar’s poem has such a wide reach. It has drawn so many people to the theater who otherwise might never have had the opportunity to experience such an integral story from their culture. It has been a privilege and responsibility to have undertaken this tale and see it reflected in the eyes of so many who know it so well. For that, I am also grateful.

We have moved into a new stage of our journey that I would like to share with you. Although our time at The Folger Theatre is ending, as a cast we have begun inquiring into continuing the journey elsewhere; to colleges and universities with strong Middle Eastern Studies programs, as a cultural envoy to preeminently Muslim countries and universities and to theaters in the US and abroad who look for dynamic, original, and innovative storytelling. I invite you to continue the journey with us! Please send me an email at jodiiigmailcom if you would like more information on where we are going and how you can help.

Zach Appelman as Henry

If you haven’t already, check into the upcoming run of Henry V  and Louis Butelli’s pre-blogging which includes interviews with the director, Robert Richmond and Zach Appelman, the actor playing Henry. Katie duBuys, the Duck in Conference of the Birds will be performing the role of Princess Catherine and Louis Butelli will be performing both in Henry V and the following production, Twelfth Night. Check ‘em out!

Finally, I would like to thank the staff at The Folger. I can’t tell you how generous, supportive and accessible they have been throughout the rehearsal and performance process. From dramaturg to company managers, box office to artistic producer, security guard to PR, I don’t think you’ll find a nicer, more dedicated bunch of people. Please consider supporting them: see shows, check out the many and various events happening, or check out the many other ways you can support The Folger’s scholar, educational, cultural and arts programs here.

I leave you with the words of the Hoopoe: “The way is open, but there is neither traveler nor guide.”  With gratitude, I bid you adieu.


Jay Dunn