Post image for Theater/Film: ANIMAL WISDOM (PBS)

by Tom Chaits on April 15, 2021

in Film,Theater-Regional,Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

Woolly Mammoth and A.C.T. have finished work on an original film of The Bushwick Starr’s acclaimed production of Animal Wisdom, created by and starring Heather Christian. Filmed at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C., PBS is now streaming Animal Wisdom here.

Do you believe in ghosts? Take a virtual front row seat for this original film of the acclaimed musical séance where the singer-songwriter-soothsayer lays to rest the souls that haunt her. Christian shapeshifts between rock star, folklorist and high priestess as she conjures a constellation of souls in an effort to confront her family’s mythologies. With raucous, ferocious music that fuses blues, gospel and folk, you are invited to raise a glass to the unseen forces that shape our lives — a concert becomes a mass, and a mass becomes a séance, all in your living room.

“At its heart, Animal Wisdom is an admission and ritualization of grief, and an acknowledgement that we carry those that we lose with us every day. It’s about the reconsecration of spaces as much as it is about the reconsecration of feelings that we all have and bury in order to get us from one day to the next,” said Christian. This has been a year of immense loss and turmoil. More than ever, I am being asked to confront those things in my day-to-day life, and I think after this year, that’s a pretty universal experience. I am excited beyond measure that this piece has new utility on a much wider scale. I have reimagined Animal Wisdom as a ritual to sanctify and consecrate the spaces that we are currently stuck in: our homes, and sing out the gnarly painful bits that we have lost. We will be consecrating a theater that had remained dark for a year, and we will be consecrating your living rooms across the country in hopes that a little light can come on back in.”

“Seeing Animal Wisdom at the Bushwick Starr changed me, and the music still haunts me in the most beautiful ways,” said María Manuela Goyanes, Artistic Director of Woolly Mammoth. “Woolly is leaning into musicals this year, especially those breaking the boundaries of the form, like this one. This film adaptation of Animal Wisdom aims to conjure the divine of the original, and a way to honor all those we have lost.”

Amber McGinnis directed the film, with stage direction by Emilyn Kowaleski. The cast features Ms. ChristianSasha Brown, Eric Farber, B.E. Farrow, and Maya Sharpe.

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