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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Theatre and Dance

"Tongue of a Bird" | Feb. 22-28 | CPE

The UofSC Theatre program will present "Tongue of a Bird" by Ellen McLaughlin, February 22-28 at The Center for Performance Experiment.

The UofSC Theatre Program

Tongue of a Bird

by Ellen McLaughlin
Directed by Steven Pearson

February 22-28, 2015

Center for Performance Experiment
718 Devine St.
(Near Thirsty Fellow restaurant)

Show Times:
8pm nightly, with an additional 11pm performance on Friday, February 27.

Tickets: $5

Available only at the door.

Arrive early as space is limited.

McLaughlin’s deeply affecting story centers on Maxine, a rescue pilot who travels to the Adirondacks, where she grew up, to search for an abducted 12-year-old girl.  The mission uncovers revelations of a more personal nature, however, as Maxine’s fragmented memories of abandonment by her own mentally unstable mother force her to confront her own dark secrets.  The Los Angeles Times called the show “an adventure story that intrigues on both exterior and interior levels, spoken in a stage-worthy language that's richly lyrical yet remarkably accessible.”

This is the second of McLaughlin’s plays to be produced in the theatre program during this academic year; Ajax in Iraq, her searing look at the war in Iraq through the lens of the ancient Greek myth of the warrior Ajax, was staged at Longstreet Theatre in October.  Professor Steven Pearson, director of Tongue of a Bird, chalks up the coincidence to the quality of the playwright’s work.

“She’s a wonderful writer,” he says.  “And her writing is unexpected.  It’s penetrating, but not self-indulgent.  She really writes for the theatre.”

Pearson also praises the script for its focus on strong, independent female characters.  “It’s got very strong women’s roles,” he says.  “It’s a play with women about women, not women as they relate to men.”

Tongue of a Bird will be the first full production in the new location of The Center for Performance Experiment, which for several years was housed in the old Hamilton College gymnasium (currently being renovated into new office and classroom space for the College of Social Work).

The large, open space of the new location offers the opportunity to continue the avant-garde theatrical work that the CPE has become known for.  It also allows for unique flexibility in presentation, which Pearson promises will “change the actor-audience relationship” with each production.

“The new CPE is really an exciting theatrical space,” says Pearson. “When you walk in you just have a sense that something should happen there.  At the same time, it’s a very workman-like space, which is perfect for our experimental approach.”

Cast in the production are first-year MFA acting students Candace Thomas as Maxine, and Carin Bendas in a dual-role as Dessa, the mother of the missing girl and Evie, Maxine’s mother.  Professor Robyn Hunt takes on the role of Polish émigré Zofia, the grandmother who raised Maxine and may hold the keys to unlock her troubling mysteries.  Undergraduate Public Relations major Madeline Mulkey plays Charlotte, the missing girl. 

For more information about Tongue of a Bird or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803.777.9353 or via email at