Death, it happens: a girl’s guide to death

Conceived by Bricken Sparacino; Directed and Shaped by Lori Kee
Written and performed by Bricken Sparacino, Rebecca Chiappone, Courtenay Harrington-Bailey and Maureen Van Trease.
Part of the 2012 Frigid Festival

Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 3.3.12
Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place

by Benjamin Coleman on 3.1.12

Death, it happens: a girl's guide to death 

Maureen Van Trease, Lori Kee, Bricken Sparacino and Rebecca Chiappone in DEATH, IT HAPPENS. Photo by Cathryn Lynne.

BOTTOM LINE: A collection of real life experiences from four women about the loss of their respective fathers.

How does one analyze a work that is intensely personal to the performers and creators? This was the question constantly turning over in my head on my walk from the theatre to the subway this evening after seeing Death, it happens: a girl’s guide to death -- this was a teary-eyed walk.

Death, it happens... is a play written and performed by four women who share their varied, real-life experiences of the deaths of their fathers. Now, every piece of art is personal, but when it pulls from private and painful life experiences (not to mention complex parent-child relationships) the ball of wax becomes more sticky to deconstruct. But let’s have a try anyway.

Conceived by Bricken Sparacino and directed and shaped by Lori Kee, Death, it happens... feels at times like the early gestation period of, say, a Love, Loss, and What I Wore or The Vagina Monologues, with the exception that the loss of a father is not an exclusively female experience. The four women share their personal experiences in an informal setting that feels theatrically relaxed, without quite treading into uncomfortable “group therapy” land. Humor is generously woven throughout the woe, providing necessary hiccups of laughter to alleviate the heartbreaking tales of loss the actresses share. Due to their inviting nature and the informal setting of the theatre, Death, it happens... transcends the personal stories and creates a communion amongst the audience. 

The play seeks to open the conversation about the complexities of patriarchal death, and the emotional messiness, socially awkward moments, sheer pain, and happy reflection that accompany such events. What has been presented at the Frigid Festival is the touching seed of a play (for sure the copious tears from the audience members can water it though). There is much growth needed, but what better place is there to experiment than a new play festival?! The play's focus ought to be tightened, for example the title promises "a girl’s guide to death"; however, it does not touch on the specific feminine aspects of loosing a father (other than scant references to the “black bra” and being a “daddy’s girl”), the plays subjects simply happen to be women. The play could either flush out the more feminine aspects of losing a father (whatever those may be...), or it could take a, perhaps, more interesting turn and seek a more universal approach to the subject of loosing a father -- compiling a larger collection of stories from varied sources for example. The stories presented nonetheless are poignant and provide pathos and humor. The play reflects fondly on the quirks of our fathers; my father, an avid supporter of the theatre (who passed away two years ago) always had a pack of tissues in his pocket, he would highly recommend you don't forget yours when you see this warm production.

(Death, it happens: a girl’s guide to death is part of the Frigid Festival at Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place through March 3, 2012. Remaining performances are Saturday, March 2nd at 1PM and Sunday March 3rd at 4PM. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased by visiting or by calling 212.868.4444. For more festival or show information visit