Performing Indigeneity: Michael Greyeyes directs interdisciplinary Theatre @ York production of THE BIRDS


“Your actions affect us all
Those here and those who come after”

TORONTO, March 8, 2016The Birds by First Nations playwright Yvette Nolan is a powerful adaptation of one of western theatre’s earliest comedies: the classical Greek play by Aristophanes. Michael Greyeyes directs the combined creative talent from four departments in York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design in a compelling production of Nolan’s work, leading 21st century audiences inside colonization from an Indigenous point of view.

Theatre @ York’s interdisciplinary production of The Birds, featuring new writing, choreography, music and interactive digital audio visuals, opens March 21 and runs to March 26 at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre on York’s Keele campus.

The Birds masks, designed by Mike Dangeli and created in collaboration with York University students

The Birds masks, designed by Mike Dangeli and created in collaboration with York University students

Greyeyes, a York theatre professor and critically acclaimed artist, envisions The Birds as a story of women and transformation, and an opportunity to communicate the realities underlying Indigenous and settler relationships.

“Subjectivity is a gift we can give each other,” said Greyeyes. “Subjectivity allows you to step into someone else’s shoes. And as the saying goes, 'if you’ve walked a mile in another’s shoes, it’s impossible to see them with old eyes'. With our production of The Birds, we want to give our audience new eyes: the opportunity to see things from the perspective of the Aboriginal community.”

Nolan re-situates the play to Turtle Island (North America), recasting the two humans who visit the land of the birds as colonizers-come-lately, intent on remaking this Indigenous paradise in their own image. Interweaving the Roman poet Ovid’s tale of the abused princess Philomela and her sister Procne as the backstory to the Nightingale in the play, Nolan places a tragic past at the heart of this comic fable.

“...we cannot forget our history
It is a part of us”

The Birds is presented in two acts, linked with collectively devised original content. Independent dance artist Susan Lee, who teaches in the Department of Dance, choreographed an original concert work with the department’s resident company, the York Dance Ensemble, that anchors the first act and give shape to the historical backstory hinted at in Nolan’s text.

Serving as assistant directors, eight BFA and MFA students from the Department of Theatre augment further responses to the text with a series of interstitial performance and media works that connect Lee’s choreography with Greyeyes’ staging that is the focus of the production’s second act.

First Nations guest artist, master carver Mike Dangeli led workshops for students and members of the Indigenous community to create six original large-scale masks for the show. Set, costume, lighting, sound and projection design are by undergrad theatre students. Artists from the Digital Media Program and Department of Music round out the creative team. The cast features performers from the 4th Year Acting Conservatory.

“The structure for this collaborative production is modelled after Indigenous creation protocols and governance,” said Greyeyes. “In particular, we’re exploring the ‘one-eighths’ principle, which emphasizes consensus. The idea is that each person only knows one-eighth of the story, and needs seven others to get the full picture. Working together on The Birds as creators, designers, performers and producers, we’re weaving a story where everyone’s voice has similar weight. A woven story is stronger than a single strand.”

... it is possible to carry our past
And move forward – Transformed”

The Birds is the final main stage performance within Performing Indigeneity, the Department of Theatre’s 2015-16 thematic focus. York’s theatre program joins the national conversation being undertaken by the country’s most influential theatre organizations and leads the nation in addressing how post-secondary theatre training intersects with Canada’s Indigenous peoples and the diversity of their artistic practices.


The School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, York University, presents
The Birds

A Theatre @ York production
Written by Yvette Nolan and directed by Michael Greyeyes

The Birds website:

March 20 to 26, opening Monday, March 21
Previews March 20 at 7:30pm, opens March 21 and runs to March 24 at 7:30pm nightly, plus matinees March 23 at 1pm and March 26 at 2pm. *No show on March 25 (Good Friday)

Where: Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre, Accolade East Building, York University, 4700 Keele St. Toronto Map & Directions

Admission: $20 | students & seniors $12 | preview $7
Group rate:
$10 (for groups of 10 or more; not available through online purchase — please call the box office)
Box Office:
online or tel. 416-736-5888


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 Media Contact:
Amy Stewart  416-650-8469 |