Wings Over Water makes a splash at the Vancouver Fringe Festival

The Three Birds Flying Collective explores themes of home, healing, and adversity

Chantal, in character, sits cross-legged in the ocean while Anjalica stands behind them, one arm outstretched protectively
Artists Chantal Gering, Anjalica Solomon, and Sarvin Esmaeili (not pictured) will soar to new heights. PHOTO: Courtesy of Anjalica Solomon / Three Birds Flying Collective

By: Kelly Chia, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Piece updated to include mention of Wings Over Water‘s production crew.

Performing a show you’ve written, choreographed, and directed with your closest friends sounds like a dream to many. It certainly was for Sarvin Esmaeili, Chantal Gering, and Anjalica Solomon, who manifested this dream into reality, forming Three Birds Flying Collective. Their upcoming performance, Wings Over Water: A Diasporic Bird Play is playing at this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival. The Peak interviewed Three Birds Flying about what it was like to put the show together. 

Wings Over Water is “set in the liminal space of the ocean where Baby Bird meets five birds through phases of growth and cycle breaking: Grandmother Bird, Patriarchy Bird, Anarchy Bird, Blood Bird, Party Bird, and Dream Bird.” 

Everything in the show — poetry, set design, costumes, sound, shadow puppetry, and script —  was made by Three Birds Flying, which includes crew members Jordan England, Vuk Prodanovic, Tanaz Roudgar, and Danielle Rozali. The artists play with these various mediums to transport the audience, evoking the stages of Baby Bird’s life. The birds that Baby Bird (Gering) meets are all played by Solomon. “[The] three of us really related with these birds, because [they are] just living in diaspora and always wanting to find home and not really knowing where home is,” Esmaeili explained. 

The show plays with these phases in Baby Bird’s life as they grow throughout the play with every bird they meet; and that growth is represented by the changing ocean in the background. Baby Bird encounters worlds they are either pushed out of or realize they have to leave. These represent opportunities of growth for Baby Bird. 

“I think breaking cycles is a big thing for Baby Bird. You kinda choose whether you want to believe in these systems, or whether you want to break it,” Esmaeili said.

Thinking about what inspired the themes of the play, Solomon said the collective asked themselves, “What are some voices that we’ve internalized just as humans throughout our life, throughout our growth? 

“That was really key, and so each bird kind of offers a lesson or a chance for growth for Baby Bird, and they really help Baby Bird along on the evolution of life,” they continued. “[The birds] are definitely inspired by moments in our life of growth and reflecting back on pivotal relationships and lessons that we’ve learned that really come out in the play.” 

Reflecting on their diasporic experiences, Gering said creating the play was itself a healing experience. “I feel like I experience home through the ritual of the play,” they said. “As a performer, I create that meditation for myself within the play.”

The three have long been friends before working on this project together. “We used to live in a house called the Slamily house, which is a house full of poets and artists, and so we’ve always collaborated on things together,” Solomon said.

Having that connection with each other made the project feel friendly and family-centric. “I feel so comfortable playing, improving, and creating with them. I can be my full self around them,” Gering added in an email interview.

Before the characters in Wings Over Water took shape, the show was created with lots of exploration and play in mind to suit the free-spiritedness of the three creators. “If you know us, we’re the type of people who will run around in the forest, jump around on the ferry, we are very windy when we’re together!” Solomon chuckled. 

Instead of working from the script first, they wanted to have a more free-form creative process that felt intuitive to them. “I think the improvisation was one of the most pivotal parts of creating for us because we’re allowed to just express our full nature with each other to play around with ideas,” Solomon explained. 

“We really took an unconventional approach to writing the play, and truly playing, and exploring ourselves, and I definitely learned a lot from our improvisations about what our play could be, and I think we brought that same playful nature into every scene,” Solomon said. Allowing themselves to explore was key to helping them envision exactly what the play could become.

Wings Over Water performs at the Vancouver Fringe Festival from September 10–19.