The Unreliable Bestiary

Deke Weaver

Inspired by the literary concept of the unreliable narrator and the medieval bestiary, which gave every living thing a spiritual purpose, The Unreliable Bestiary is an ark of stories about animals, our relationships with them and the worlds they inhabit. In addition to an encyclopedic set of books and a website, The Unreliable Bestiary includes performances for each letter of the alphabet, with each letter representing a particular animal or habitat. With the help of composer Chris Peck, choreographer Jennifer Allen and scenic designer Andy Warfel, each performance is scaled to different venues—from traditional theaters to intimate living rooms, outdoor pavilions and national park amphitheaters. MONKEY, the project’s first performance, opened on Darwin’s 200th birthday. The second performance, ELEPHANT, was held in a cavernous livestock pavilion and featured video projected on two 90-foot long screens, an enormous elephant puppet and a cast of thousands. WOLF premiered in Fall 2013 and featured a three-hour bus trip and walk in the woods.

Project Updates

  • 2012: Weaver performs Other Animals from The Unreliable Bestiary in Chicago at Links Hall

  • 2011: Weaver performs MONKEY from The Unreliable Bestiary at the Interactive Futures Conference in Vancouver, Canada

  • 2011: Weaver performs Other Animals from The Unreliable Bestiary at Virginia Commonwealth University and Studio Roanoke

  • 2011: Weaver performs ELEPHANT at the Salt Lake City Art Center

  • 2011: Weaver performs ELEPHANT in the New Frontier Program at the Sundance Film Festival

  • 2010: ELEPHANT, the second performance in The Unreliable Bestiary, premieres at the Stock Pavilion in Urbana, IL

  • 2010: Deke Weaver travels to Thailand to research elephants at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center

  • 2010: An iteration of The Unreliable Bestiary is performed at UCLA

  • 2009: A workshop iteration of The Unreliable Bestiary is performed at HERE Arts Center in New York City