“Parakeet”: a Play on Love, Loss and Trauma


Courtesy of Villanova Communication Department

Opening night for “Parakeet” is Thursday Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

Chloe Miller, Co-Culture Editor

Have you ever wished you could have one last conversation with or receive one last piece of advice from a deceased loved one? Marie-Helene Bertino’s novel “Parakeet” explores what could happen when a loved one comes back in spirit. 

The Villanova Communication Department is presenting the world premiere of “Parakeet.” Adapted by the Head of the Communication Department Dr. Heidi Rose, the play is based on the novel “Parakeet,” which was written by Villanova alumna and surrealist author Marie-Helene Bertino. The show runs for four days from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2.

Bertino’s novel depicts the story of the Bride, the protagonist, who is visited by a parakeet before her wedding. The Bride believes the parakeet to be a manifestation of her late grandmother. Her grandmother comes with skepticism about the marriage and urges her to locate her estranged brother. 

“The idea for ‘Parakeet’ came from a few different sources,” Bertino said. “I was missing my grandmother very much, and I wanted to write a really brutal and honest story about the expectation placed on women around the idea of marriage and watershed moments like marriage.”

Rose was inspired to adapt “Parakeet” after her first read of the novel during the COVID-19 shutdown. 

I followed Marie’s career and read her first novel and her collection of short stories,” Rose said. “Then, I read ‘Parakeet’ in the beginning of the pandemic, and I just fell in love with it. I just loved it. I remember reaching out and saying ‘Wow. I love this book and congratulations.’”

Although the seed to adapt “Parakeet” was planted after her first read, the moment was right this past Spring for Rose to undertake the project during her sabbatical. Her sabbatical gave her the free time she needed to write the script and lay out a plan for the play adaptation. 

During Bertino’s four years at Villanova, she took Rose’s first performance art class. She describes her experience in Rose’s class as feeling like “coming out of a storm” and that her background in theater and the performing arts influenced the inherent theatricality of “Parakeet.”

Although Bertino has played a role in helping with the adaptation of “Parakeet,” she placed full trust in Rose’s artistic ability. 

“Marie said she didn’t want to see a script,” Rose said. “She didn’t need to weigh in. We talked about casting and some of how I was envisioning this on stage. We even shared that in many ways if ‘Parakeet’ is going to have some sort of an adaptation, it belongs on stage.”

The casting was crucial to adapting “Parakeet” due to the wide array of “wild” and “wacky” characters, said Rose, and the process of casting was far from easy. Auditions for the play were held in April of 2022, and 13 student actors were chosen. The play has had a quick turnaround, as students had just over a month to prepare and rehearse with their fellow cast members on campus. 

One stand-out cast member is senior Jackie Carroll who plays the narrator/the Bride. Carroll’s role is a result of Rose’s decision to split the Bride’s character into two. There is the Bride character, who is in the story experiencing the events, played by Ryan Henry, and there is the narrator/the Bride, played by Carroll, who tells the story to the audience. 

Carroll, an English major, was inspired to audition for “Parakeet” because of her admiration for Bertino. 

“I had met Marie in one of my creative writing classes because my professor brought her in to talk with us,” Carroll said. “She’s obviously an inspiration to me as an English major or someone who’s just interested in creating art in general. As soon as I found out it was gonna be ‘Parakeet,’ I was like ‘Yeah, I would love to do this.’”

Anna Jankowski, another senior student involved in “Parakeet,” plays the role of the Bride’s grandmother, who appears to her in the form of a parakeet. As a senior, Jankowski decided to return back to theater after not performing since high school. 

Jankowski appreciates the play for staying true to Bertino’s novel and for the way it handles sensitive themes. 

“The way it deals with trauma is just really authentic,” Jankowski said. “It’s an intense story, but it’s told with a lot of love. It captures the human condition in a really interesting way. It’s also like anything you’ve seen before.”

Griff Scially, who plays the Groom, echoed Jankowski’s sentiments, as he said the audience should expect the unexpected. 

Scially plays the charismatic yet removed groom in “Parakeet.” To get into his role, Scially has spent time working on portraying someone who is likable, but also somewhat “one-dimensional” and unable to get deep in conversation. 

The cast members of “Parakeet,” Rose and Bertino are eager to see the play in action. Bertino will be watching the adaptation for the first time on opening night, and she is excited to watch it play out. 

“If I hear the audience around me laugh at all to those words, I will be the happiest person on the face of the planet,” Bertino said. “What an honor to have someone like it enough to put it on stage and then have all these actors embody it. I will be the luckiest person in that auditorium.”

“Parakeet” opens at 7 p.m. on Sept. 29, and has showtimes at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The last performance will be held on Oct. 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets are free and can be reserved at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/parakeet-a-world-premiere-play-in-two-acts-tickets-383028507577.