Posters for “Stupid F#@%ing Bird” taken down on campus

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A poster for Stupid F#@%ing Bird outside of Stearns Hall on Nov. 20, 2019 in Los Angeles. Julian Willnow/The Occidental

Stupid F#@%ing Bird,” a theater department play directed by theater professor Brendan Hughes, opens this Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Keck Theater. According to Hughes, in the week prior to the show’s opening, posters advertising the play were removed across campus. Hughes said stage manager Jona Yadidi (junior) informed him posters had been removed the day after they were put up.

“This poster has a lot of heart in it,” Hughes said. “It is about an event that has a lot of heart in it, and so it would be sad to me if someone took it upon themselves to make it harder for this show to be seen.”

Joaquín Madrid Larrañaga (first year), an assistant stage manager for the play, said he put a poster on his dorm room door in Bell-Young Hall, as well as in Pauley Hall. According to Larrañaga, when he returned to his dorm the next day, the poster was gone.

“I was kind of confused, but I didn’t really think anything of it,” Larrañaga said. “And then I received an email from [Hughes] saying that posters had been taken down, and so I told him, ‘Hey, mine on my dorm room was also taken down.’ Once I received the email, I started looking at places where there used to be posters, and they were also not there.”

Hughes said the poster was designed by Sandy Nguyen (junior), a cast member for the play and a student in Hughes’ class.

“She did a spectacular job, we based it on the — have you seen the seagull meme where it inhales and then yells something?” Hughes said. “We based it on that because this is a very contemporary show and it has a kind of in-your-face, bad-boy energy, the show, and so we tried to encapsulate that in the poster.”

Nguyen said she was uncertain if the poster’s profanity was the reason behind its removal on campus because she believes college students are desensitized to that type of language. According to Larrañaga, the show’s subject could be a reason behind its removal.

“Maybe someone didn’t want people to see the show for some reason,” Larrañaga said. “It is a very existential show and brings up a lot of themes regarding existentialism and things like that.”

According to Hughes, “Stupid F#@%ing Bird” is a contemporary play adapted from Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” by Aaron Posner. Hughes said the play focuses on the divide between an older generation of overachievers that have spent their entire lives in an opportunity-rich environment and a younger, opportunity-starved generation that wants to make meaning out of human existence. The younger generation is ultimately thwarted by the hubris and arrogance of the generation before them.

“It’s very relevant and resonant, I think, for anyone in college — or anyone just emerging from college, or thinking about the specter of emerging from college into the tundra of unpaid internships and [a] horrendous gig economy,” Hughes said.

Hughes said he had some theories as to who might have taken the poster down.

“I’ve been thinking this could be anyone from a bird lover — and it is a very talented and devoted bird lover that also loves seagulls — [to] someone who objects to the profanity being in their space so they have to walk past that word,” Hughes said. “I love the fact that this poster could be stirring passions enough that someone is having such a visceral reaction as to tear them down when you see them.”

Theater department professor Laural Meade said she would ideally want to speak to the person who felt compelled to remove the posters.

“I’d like to talk to the person who did it, and if there is some offense, of course my primary suggestion would be come talk to us, come say something,” Meade said. “Tearing a poster down, all it does is leave us in the dark about what the issue is.”

Larrañaga said he was initially worried when the posters were being taken down because he wanted to ensure students knew about the play. He said he recommends students go see it.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Larrañaga said. “There is audience interaction, which is one of my favorite things. The set is beautiful. The acting is superb, and the process has been really cool to see.”

Meade said she hopes that in the buildup to the play, students will focus on the actual production as opposed to the posters’ removal.

“My larger publicity concern is that a group of students are making a profoundly high-quality piece of work,” Meade said. “The students are killing it in this production, the acting is incredible. Anyway, that, for me, [is] what’s exciting. I get it, it’s exciting, someone’s going down and tearing our posters down. It’s just… why?”