Student directing play about five women who struggle with life's hardships in the world

George Fox University's acting troupe will soon present "Tongue of a Bird," written by Ellen McLaughlin, an American playwright and actor of stage and film.SUSAN BRANNON - Preparations are underway for the GFU production of 'Tongue of a Bird,' which is directed by Audrey O'Farrell and written by Ellen McLaughlin.

"Tongue of a Bird" is directed by Audrey O'Farrell, a senior majoring in acting and directing at the university.

In the play, Maxine, played by Sarah Aldrich, is a search and rescue pilot who returns in midwinter to her childhood home in the Adirondacks. There, she conducts a search for a girl who has been abducted by a stranger in a black pickup. The search lasts for three days.

The girl's rescue — if she is still alive — hinges on Maxine's expertise. In the midst of the search, Maxine must deal with the girl's distraught mother Dessa, played by JeanneAnn Faris, and the eccentricities of her own grandmother, Zofia, played by Hope Bellinger.

While she dreams, Maxine pieces together the fragmented memories of her childhood in a play that considers the notions of loss, motherhood and yearning for release.

Other cast members are Hannah Strawn, playing Evie, and Lauren Herman, playing Charlotte.

"I chose the story because it has five women and no men," O'Farrell said. "I really wanted to do something that I felt was empowering to women. I think that this story shows them fighting their own battles and each character has something different that they have to face in that they have to confront in their own life in order to move forward. I think it is really interesting that each of the characters deal with that.

"The play also deals with a lot of mental health issues. I want to tell more of those stories that address depression and suicide and the effects of that. It asks the audience to engage and to be willing to be active in the story."

The play has mature themes and content and deals with suicide and child abduction.

"The heart of the play is about the women fighting, fighting with themselves and for themselves and figuring out how they are going to survive. The ways that they lean on each other to do that and the ways that they need to be independent in their fight," O'Farrell said.

This is not O'Farrell's first production. In her junior year she directed a play called "Lovers" by Brian Friel that was performed in a classroom instead of the customary Wood-Mar Auditorium. The production had a smaller budget and used volunteers for the set design, lighting and acting.

"This is my first main show," she said. "We've rehearsed for about four weeks before winter break. Then we took a long break for Christmas and we will do around two and a half more weeks of rehearsals before the show. Everyone has been working really hard; the design elements are complicated and beautiful. I think it is going to be a great show."

The play will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25-27 and Feb. 1-3, with a matinee set for 2 p.m. Feb. 4 at Wood-Mar Auditorium. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $8 senior and George Fox alumni and $6 for students and children under 12. Tickets can be purchased in the box office in the Bruin Store on the Newberg campus or online at For more information, call 503-554-3844.

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