Playwright Aaron Posner goes all out with ‘Bird’ 

click to enlarge San Francisco Playhouse is staging writer Aaron Posner’s provocative “Stupid Fucking Bird,” an irreverent adaptation of an Anton Chekhov classic. - COURTESY  PHOTO
  • San Francisco Playhouse is staging writer Aaron Posner’s provocative “Stupid Fucking Bird,” an irreverent adaptation of an Anton Chekhov classic.
When Aaron Posner set out to write his fast and loose adaptation of Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull," he didn't want to be inhibited with thoughts of marketability.

"I didn't want to worry about who was going to produce it and I didn't really imagine anyone would want to produce it," says Posner. The not-ready-for-prime-time title, "Stupid Fucking Bird," gave him the freedom to write the play that he wanted to write.

Turns out, it also is the play everyone else wants to see. The play, which opens in previews this week at San Francisco Playhouse, was deemed "a sensation" when it opened at The Wooly Mammoth Theater in Washington DC in 2013. It won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Play as well as the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Play or Musical.

"I wrote it for myself, and the fact that it's on its way to being my most produced play is just utterly delightful," said Posner. "It's beyond my wildest expectations."

Posner's hip revamp is a departure from his previous reverential stage adaptations. When he adapted Chaim Potok, Mark Twain, Ken Kesey and Kurt Vonnegut, his objective was to serve the text so the authors might say, "Yes! That's my story, that's what I'm trying to get at."

This time, Posner used building blocks of "The Seagull," but the take, which he calls "self aware," "audience interactive" and "meta-theatrical," is anything but reverent. Or, as Nelson Pressley wrote in his Washington Post review, "'Stupid Fucking Bird' mines 'The Seagull' for classical heft even while giving it the bird."

Yet Chekhov would quite likely say that this is what he was getting at. Posner points out that Chekhov, who seems old hat now because he is often imitated, was, in his time, revolutionary.

In "The Seagull," Chekhov's characters are actors and playwrights that call for new forms of theater and new approaches. Posner believes "Stupid Fucking Bird" answers that call: "I've pushed on the boundaries a bit. I've tried some things I haven't quite seen in a play before in order to try to live true to the spirit of Chekhov, if not the letter of what he did," he says.

Chances are audiences (and the ghost of Chekhov) will also approve of Posner's next three adaptations. He plans to do the Chekhov cycle, the four major plays. Next up is "Life Sucks (or the Present Ridiculous)," aka "Uncle Vanya."


Stupid Fucking Bird

Where: San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post St., S.F.

When: Previews at 8 p.m. March 17-20, opens March 21; runs 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. select Sundays; closes May 2

Tickets: $20 to $120

Contact: (415) 677-9596,

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Erika Milvy

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