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Birds on a wire: High-flying avian play lands at House of Yes

Blackbird singing in the dead of night: The dark fairy tale “Cloud Cuckooland” will spread its wings at the House of Yes, starting on Sept. 8.
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This flight of fancy took three years to land!

A high-flying new fairy tale about the Queen of the Birds will launch the first of six performances in Bushwick on Sept. 8. The creator of “Cloud Cuckooland” hoped to debut the show in 2013, but when the House of Yes closed its Williamsburg location that year, she put her show on ice until the aerial venue re-opened in Bushwick in 2015. No other spot could have done the show justice, said the playwright.

“When House of Yes closed I knew I needed to wait,” said Djahari Clark, a Bushwick resident. “I was waiting for House of Yes because I wanted my show to fly.”

The show — which includes dance, puppetry, aerial acrobatics, spoken word, and song — follows a girl who dies and enters a fantasy world where she becomes Queen of the Birds. But she can only wear the crown if she leaves her heart behind. Clark said that show will take viewers on a roller coaster of emotions.

“It’s a beautiful dark fairy tale that will break your heart a little bit, but it’s going to make you fall in love again,” she said.

Clark began writing the show a few years ago with playwright Matthew Freeman, who penned the song lyrics. She dreamt up the story when thinking about the struggles of her grandparents — her grandmother is mentally sharp, but her body is letting her down, while her grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s, is in a continually blissful, gentle state. The stark difference in their conditions made Clark consider her own mortality.

She also drew inspiration from a trip to the Oracle of Delphi in Greece, where she was surrounded by birds. The experience was a revelation for her story.

“I was very drawn to Greek theater already and I realized that this would be the basis,” she said. “The structure of my play was going to be coming out of ancient Greek tragedies and birds were going to be telling my story.”

The show features nine performers dressed in ornate avian costumes and puppets, which Clark said are the perfect blend of child-like and mature.

Clark hopes that the play will direct audience members away from their phones and the distractions of the bustling city.

“I want people to wake up their imagination and get in touch with their inner self again,” she said. “I feel like as a society we are so detached from our inner selves and so caught up in technology and just moving fast that we forget to turn inward.”

“Cloud Cuckooland” at House of Yes (2 Wyckoff Ave. at Jefferson Avenue in Bushwick, www.houseofyes.org). Sept. 8–10 and 15–17 at 7 pm. $20–$30.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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