Close friends and multidisciplinary artists Anjalica Solomon and Chantal Dobles Gering have always wanted to create something together. So when they were accepted in this year’s Nanaimo and Vancouver fringe festivals, they seized the opportunity.
“We have such an easy time collaborating…because we’re friends and we love to play and imagine,” Solomon told the Georgia Straight by phone.
Thus, Three Birds Flying Collective was born. Solomon, Gering, and their fellow artist and collaborator Sarvin Esmaeili have worked for the past six months to create Wings Over Water: A Diasporic Bird Play, an original work that will be performed live at the Picnic Pavilion on Granville Island as part of the 2021 Fringe Festival.
“It’s truly a project of community,” Solomon remarked.
The creative team expanded with the additions of actor and puppeteer Tanaz Roudgar and projection designer Danielle Rozali, who are both friends in the core creators’ immediate networks. “People were excited about this idea and wanted to come together and put this on,” Solomon added.
The play uses the collective’s combined skill in movement, poetry, music, and puppetry to explore themes of diaspora, home, and belonging. Solomon explained that the piece’s development involved a lot of experimentation and improvisation. “We really gave ourselves the space and time to explore…a final script didn’t come together until a week or two before the Nanaimo Fringe,” they shared.
“We just had so much fun with it and we made it kind of spiritual,” Solomon said of the rehearsal process. “We would really work together and shed our fears and kind of like meditate together, just jump in a river and just let it wash us and then be like, ‘Okay, all the channels are open; let’s go get lost in the flow of creation.’ ”
Solomon continued by saying that the act of creating became sacred to the group. “I think exploring together opened so many more doors than writing alone might have because of…that magic of collaboration.”
Wings Over Water follows Baby Bird as it encounters seven birds on their journey home from the ocean. Among them are Grandmother Bird, Party Bird, and Patriarchy Bird.
"There are so many ways you can look at diaspora,” Solomon said. “We wanted to explore this question of what diaspora means to us.”
Questions like these guide the narrative, poetry and characters in the play. “Something that came up is our relationship to separation,” Solomon reflected. “That relationship between a baby bird and a grandmother bird…hearing about a home and not fully realizing what this separation means…and what it means to have chosen family.”
The Ocean is one of the seven characters that Solomon embodies throughout the play. “The ocean reminds me of how far away from home I am sometimes. Or how far away I am from a place that my ancestors lived…when I’m in the ocean, I feel expansive and connected to that and so I think that is truly what inspires me when I play that character.”
Solomon told the Straight that many rehearsals took place by the sea and that everyone in the collective feels very connected to it. “The ocean gave us a lot of poetry…it is the portal through which Baby Bird travels and is certainly a thread throughout the play.”
Solomon expressed excitement about bringing the piece to Vancouver audiences. “It’s been a real honour to work alongside Sarvin, Chantal, Tanaz, and Danielle… Our play is so imaginative and heartwarming and funny, and I think it will allow audiences to be in touch with their inner child.”
Solomon mentioned that the play might put some people out of their comfort zone, but it will leave viewers walking away feeling a lot. “What’ll make it worth it is other people connecting to what we’ve made…especially if audiences are interested in diaspora or have felt connected to that theme.”
Solomon noted that creating this show has deepened the collective’s sense of what home and belonging means.
“As queer artists, we have all had to find home and make home and be at home in ourselves… That’s kind of the direction the play goes toward in the end.”