Eugene and the Song of the Wicked Starling | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Eugene and the Song of the Wicked Starling

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In 1890 amateur ornithologist and theater aficionado Eugene Schieffelin released 50 pairs of European starlings in New York's Central Park as part of a crackpot crusade to introduce to America every species of bird mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare. Today the 200 million descendants of those 100 creatures befoul urban landscapes with their droppings and threaten many native bird species with extinction. According to writer-director Shawn Prakash Reddy of the Curious Theatre Branch, it's a perfect illustration of "what happens when you don't incorporate scientific knowledge into a clever idea." The stories of Schieffelin and other notable bird-watchers are intertwined in the company's interactive multimedia piece Eugene and the Song of the Wicked Starling, part of the Museum of Science and Industry's "Experiments: Science & Art" performance series. The legend of Icarus is told in a movement-based piece performed by Kat McJimsey and accompanied by original songs by Jenny Magnus and Beau O'Reilly. Leonardo da Vinci's plans for flying machines, based on avian anatomy, are displayed with mirrors to correct for his right-to-left notations. Visitors are encouraged to leaf through Shakespeare's works to look for the 606 references to birds, and to draw pictures of the papier-mache birds perched in the surrounding "forest." Reddy hopes the piece will elicit active participation. "Museums set up situations where everything has to be so reverent," he says. "We want people to question what they're seeing and how they're seeing it." Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., 773-684-1414. Thursday, July 24, through Wednesday, July 30, 11 AM-3 PM. Free with museum admission, $9, $7.50 seniors, $5 kids 3-11.

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