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If We Were Birds

If We Were Birds

Erin Shields,

Playwrights Canada Press

Winner of the 2011 Governor General's Literary Award for Drama

When King Pandion marries his daughter Procne off to war hero King Tereus, she must leave her beloved sister Philomela behind. After years of isolation in a foreign land, Procne begs Tereus to collect her sister for a visit. When confronted with Philomela’s beauty, Tereus’s desire triumphs over reason, igniting a chain of horrific events. A harrowing exploration of violence and revenge, this adaptation features a chorus of ravaged women, each a survivor of a 20th Century conflict: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Nanking, and Berlin.

If We Were Birds is a shocking, uncompromising examination of the horrors of war, giving voice to a woman long ago forced into silence, and placing a spotlight on millions of female victims who have been silenced through violence. A deeply affecting and thought-provoking re-imagining of Ovid’s masterpiece “Tereus, Procne and Philomela,” If We Were Birds is an unflinching commentary on contemporary war and its aftermath delivered through the lens of Greek tragedy.

“Anyone doubting the relevance and primal pull of myth needs to see If We Were Birds. Scratch that. Anyone interested in powerful theatre should see it.” —Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

“The writing is both poetic and muscular, the images are vivid, breathtaking and heart-squeezing… pulsing with life and emotions.” —Lynn Slotkin, Here and Now, CBC Radio

If We Were Birds is a bold and brilliant retelling of a classical myth. The language is poetic and contemporary. Erin Shields creates a haunting and viscerally impactful play about the sexual politics of war. She invites us into a world of complicated family relationships, dangerous sexuality, revenge and fierce loyalty.” - Governor General jury citation

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