Northwestern student stars in comedic thriller ‘Feathers and Teeth’


Source: Liz Lauren

Jordan Brodess and Olivia Cygan act in “Feathers and Teeth.” Cygan, a Communication senior, plays the lead role of Chris in the show.

Amanda Svachula, Assistant A&E Editor

A strong female protagonist drew Communication senior Olivia Cygan to the production of the funny thriller “Feathers and Teeth,” at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.

“I read the script and thought it was an unusually wonderful role for a woman,” said Cygan, who plays Chris, the female protagonist. “She’s got strands from the best Shakespearean and Greek woman characters, but she’s this 1978 teenager.”

“Feathers and Teeth” is a quirky show that combines humor from 1970s horror movies and thrilling emotional drama to tell the story of a family hit by tragedy. The play runs at the Goodman Theatre through Sunday.

As both a comedy and a thriller, the production pushes the boundaries of traditional theater genres.

“It’s kind of creating a new genre in theater,” said Northwestern Prof. Henry Godinez, the show’s director. “Its pretty wacky, but at the center it has a beautiful story about grief and loss and how we deal with grief.”

The plot follows Cygan’s character, Chris, as she deals with the loss of her mother. Two months after her mother dies, a nurse moves into her home to live with her father. Once the woman moves in, strange events like the appearance of a mysterious creature begin to occur, and the show spirals into a horror story. For Cygan, Chris is a character unlike any other she has ever played.

“She’s very different than other characters I’ve played, as I’ve played a fair amount of older characters,” Cygan said. “She’s one of the bravest characters I’ve ever played. The biggest challenge was kind of figuring out who she was before her tragedy happened.”

Besides the challenge of playing a new character-type, Cygan has to balance college and performing eight shows a week, which is why she has been taking classes part time. The show rehearsed six days a week for four weeks, with most of the rehearsal process happening before the academic year started.

“I would not be getting to do this if I weren’t at Northwestern and if I hadn’t met so many incredible, kind teachers and mentors here,” Cygan said.

“Feathers and Teeth” features four characters, and a Foley artist, Carolyn Hoerdemann, who creates live sound effects for the show.

“It goes back to the early days of radio and film,” Godinez said. “(Hoerdemann)’s in a little suspended cage to the side of the set so you can see her. She makes the sounds of the creatures using three different microphones and a bunch of different materials and instruments.”

Along with the Foley artist, the show utilizes sound by incorporating rock ‘n’ roll music by bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Grateful Dead.

Visually, the show further takes on elements of a 1970s horror film, with shadow puppet animations and a lot of blood.

“There are a lot of lights and sounds and physical effects as well,” said Chicago actor Eric Slater, who plays Chris’ father. “There’s quite a bit of blood. That is very difficult because, blood being what it is, even stage blood gets everywhere.”

Godinez encourages students to see the show because of its unique aspects.

“We’ve found that young students enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not like what you think theater is. It’s fun, fast-paced and suspenseful.”

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