Funded! This project was successfully funded on August 27, 2013.


WOLF: 3rd performance in The Unreliable Bestiary - a show for every letter of the alphabet, each letter an endangered species.

Thanks to our amazing backers we made our minimum goal in three days! This covers part of our expenses. Help put WOLF in it’s best light: join us to make $10,000! Share the project, send some love! No donation is too small or too big.

Video Credits: Footage by Shatterglass Studio, Valerie Oliveiro, and Deke. Interview shot by Willie Filkowski. Sound by Chris Peck. Edited by Deke.


Hi. I’m Deke Weaver. I’m making a new performance with an amazing crew of collaborators. WOLF will premiere in September 2013. Sheep-killer to ranchers, spirit animal to New Age seekers, admired by many hunting cultures, devil incarnate to medieval European farmers – the wolf’s spot at the top of the food chain elicits strong reactions. Wherever the wolf peers out of the forest, he stirs up the old stories. WOLF will take place in three parts. For the first leg of the journey we’ll take people on a bus ride from Urbana, Illinois 40 minutes west, out across the cornfields, to a small old-growth forest. During the bus ride, “park rangers” (actors) will present a talk (sing alongs! howling lessons! strange videos!) about reintroducing wolves to Illinois (a state that has very little wild land). The second leg of the performance will lead the audience through the forest, carefully watching the landscape for wolves. Finally, after having traveled over the river and through the woods, we’ll arrive at grandmother’s house – a barn - filled with video, dance, live music, and stories that pull some of the threads together.

The inside of the barn where the third leg of WOLF will happen.
The inside of the barn where the third leg of WOLF will happen.

WOLF is the third chapter in my life-long endeavor, The Unreliable Bestiary, a performance for every letter of the alphabet, each letter represented by an endangered species. Fueled by our precarious moment in natural history, the ridiculously ambitious gesture of creating 26 individual, full-length performances will present a tiny sliver of our current catastrophic loss of habitat and biodiversity. From living rooms to national park amphitheaters, beaches to barns; each Bestiary performance is mounted in a unique setting, the site reflecting aspects of our stumbling dance with the natural world. The Bestiary’s first performance, MONKEY, opened in February 2009 on Darwin’s 200th birthday. 2010’s ELEPHANT premiered in the Univ. of Illinois Stock Pavilion, a cavernous arena chosen for its associations with circuses, state fairs, and Roman amphitheatre battles. This huge performance featured video projected on two 90-foot long screens, live music, dance, and a 12-foot high life-sized elephant puppet.

Since WOLF is designed for this very specific spot in East Central Illinois, touring it will be tricky. So to avoid that if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods-scenario we’re doing a couple of things. First of all we’re working with the brilliant folk at Shatterglass Studios to make a gorgeous video documentary of WOLF. They shot the ELEPHANT documentation and, my goodness, it’s beautiful. Second of all – I’m making a solo suitcase version of WOLF that will be touring film festivals, museums, universities, and nature preserves in the Northern Midwest, West, and West Coast. It’ll be a combination of monolog and cinematic video. Part of this tour will include the 2013 Chicago Humanities Festival. And third of all – for every performance in The Unreliable Bestiary, I’m making a book. So, by the time I’m in my mid-70’s and finishing the last performance of this life-long project, there will be an encyclopedic collection of 26 delicious little books. So, yeaaa, live theater! But, yes, it lives on through these other mediums.

This project is personal. No doubt about it. My father is a biologist. The interconnections between the environment, wildlife and the human spirit have seeped into me since I was a little kid. More and more the project seems to be about how these animals function within particular ecosystems. But I’m not just talking about our traditional understanding of the word “ecosystem” – I’d like to include our human cultural understandings, assumptions, myths, and fairytales that make our ideas of these animals – which go on to form our ideas of the broader world. This makes the project seem really dry. It’s not. It’s wet. I’m finding and making stories that people can connect to directly, personally, and emotionally. Very funny. Terribly sad. I’m hoping the bigger ideas will come to roost later. My three years of research for WOLF has taken me to a wolf management workshop in Yellowstone, time as the Isle Royale National Park artist-in-residence, wolf sanctuaries in Oregon, Idaho, and Minnesota, and lots and lots of reading. There’s so much wolf-lore. After describing the idea of the performance to wolf biologist Rolf Peterson, he said, “I guess the question is, where do you stop?” It’s true. I’d love for WOLF to get audiences to think about the delicate relationship between the human imagination and the natural world while encouraging individuals to take a personal stake in ecological stewardship.


I’m Deke Weaver. I am a writer-performer, designer, theater and media artist. I love art and theater and performance and people that step beyond the norm. I like to make stories and moments that intersect the personal, the political, and the brutally honest, all while riding that laughing-while-crying line.I love work that’s smart, complex, simple, and emotionally rich.

My performances and videos have been presented in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Europe, Russia, and the United States in experimental theater, film/video, dance, and solo performance venues such as Channel 4/U.K., the Sundance Film Festival, the New York Video Festival at Lincoln Center, The Berlin Video Festival, the Museum of Contemporary Art/LA, The Moth, and many others including livestock pavilions, bars, and backyard sheds. A resident at Yaddo, Ucross, Isle Royale National Park, and the MacDowell Colony, my work has been supported by commissions, fellowships, and grants from Creative Capital, the city of San Francisco, the states of Illinois and New York, the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and other public and private foundations. The text of both MONKEY and ELEPHANT are included in the upcoming University of Michigan Press book Animal Acts: Performing Species Today, edited by Una Chaudhuri and Holly Hughes. From 1999-2005 I was the Senior Animator for the Showtime Networks’ Broadcast Design Group. I am currently an associate professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with appointments in the School of Art & Design and Department of Theater. In the scheme of things – I’m incredibly lucky.


The money you bring to WOLF will be used specifically for artist/designer/technician fees. Every one of our artists, designers, and technicians have worked for love. It would be a very good thing to give them some love back… in the form of money … so they can pay their rent and eat. The money you bring to WOLF will also offset travel costs (some of our collaborators live outside the Champaign-Urbana area, and, it’s a 40-minute drive, one-way, to Allerton Park – we’ll be going out there a lot over the next two months), and help pay for some of the materials needed to build our sets and costumes. Other major costs include big rental fees (the barn, the buses, video/sound/lights), documentation (video and photographic) and marketing (posters, cards, web fees). We’ve got support from some fantastic funders – and it would be great for you to be part of it.


For the September 2013 site-specific version of WOLF we’re creating an experience that will only happen for five days. It’s rare, it’s curious - like the animals. I love going to see this kind of thing, so I’m making something that I’d want to go see; something that takes me out of my daily, well-worn, rutted path. For me, this is one of the reasons I like being alive. Being in my skin with other people – moments that remind us that the world is much bigger than what we imagine it to be, but – simultaneously – small, deeply interconnected. Art can put you right smack in the heart of yourself and the hearts of people around you. And that’s what we’re doing with WOLF. It’s going to be beautiful, sophisticated, funny, and haunting.

We’re making culture about nature during a time when our natural-lifelines are fraying. Maybe work like this can inspire people to start thinking outside the boxes that don’t work anymore? That’s why you should support this project.

Fabulous collaborators, cast, and crew!
Fabulous collaborators, cast, and crew!


This show would not be possible without these incredible artists and designers. We need every last one of them. Thank you in advance for being part of this project.

Jennifer Allen (codirector, choreographer) has been creating densely layered performance works described as “enigmatic - thoughtful and compelling” for the past 15 years. Her work has been seen all around NYC as well as venues on both coasts and Chicago’s Millennium Park. She enjoyed residencies through PICA (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art) and The MacDowell Colony. As a performer in NYC she worked with many influential artists: John Jasperse, Donna Uchizono and DD Dorvillier to name a few. She has been part of The Unreliable Bestiary’s collaborative team since it’s inception.

Damon Loren Baker (video systems design) makes things and is from Illinois. He is currently the Assistant Professor of Interactive Entertainment and the Emerging Media Technologies Program Coordinator in the Department of Entertainment Technology at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn.

Grant Bowen (environmental design) is an artist/designer/performer currently exploring the intersection of performance, community, and experience through the lens of design. He recently received his MFA in Experiential Environment Design from UIUC. This is his second project with Deke after assisting the Environment Design for ELEPHANT.

Nico Brown (performer) is currently a graduate student in dance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has worked with Jennifer Monson and Kirstie Simson. His work has been presented at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and the Center for Performance Research. He has worked in various administrative capacities for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the American Dance Festival, Movement Research, and The Old Globe Theatre.

Susan Becker (costume design) works as a designer, artist and educator in the field of fashion and dress. Since graduating from Rhode Island School of Design she has designed for traditional and experimental settings, from the fashion industry to collaborations on stage, film, and site-specific projects. In addition to her design work, Susan has also taught courses on fashion and dress for RISD and is currently a lecturer at the  University of Illinois. Her solo work centers around explorations of the social psychology of dress and culture.

Bradford Chapin (audio systems design) is sound designer and audio/video engineer from Grayslake, IL. His work had been heard regionally with Cal Shakes, TheatreWorks (SF), Utah Shakespeare Festival, Chautauqua Theater Company, and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. He holds an MFA from The University of Illinois and has a mild addiction to steel-framed bicycles.

Laura Chiaramonte (performer), a Chicago based dance artist, has been performing and producing work professionally for the past 15 years throughout the US and abroad. Laura received her M.F.A in dance from the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign in 2009 and just completed her Alexander Technique Teaching Certification this June.  

Jessica Cornish (performer) has a BFA in Dance from the University of Illinois and is currently situated in Chicago working as an independent artist.

Niall Jones (performer) is a third year MFA candidate in dance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Aaron Landsman (performer) makes performances, performs, and teaches. He is the current artist-in-residence at ASU Gammage and will be a visiting artist at Stanford University and Columbia College this year. His project City Council Meeting will be at Zspace in San Francisco next summer.

Maria Lux (installation artist) earned her MFA in studio art from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012 and her BFA from Iowa State University in 2006. She currently lives and works in Champaign.

Valerie Oliveiro (lighting design) Valerie Oliveiro is an artist, photographer, image-maker and all round arts worker. Valerie’s personal work often addresses relationships with place/space. She recently won an International Photography Award for her piece “9-0” where she photographed Merce Cunningham and John Cage’s empty New York apartment. Her photos have appeared in the New York Times, American Theatre Magazine and Time Out. She also stage manages and collaborates with international artists in venues such as the Ingenuity Festival (Cleveland), Lyon Dance Biennial (Lyon), Luminato Festival (Toronto), and the Roma Europa Festival (Rome).

Chris Peck (composer/sound design)is a composer and performer of electronic and acoustic music who frequently collaborates with experimental theatre and contemporary dance artists. He is part of the improvising trio Crystal Mooncone, whose most recent album, Escape Beam III, is available through the Deep Listening Institute.

Angie Pittman (performer) is a Virginia-born dance artist. She has performed and presented work in Virginia, North Carolina, Washington DC, New York, Illinois, and Bucaramanga, Colombia. Angie graduated with a BA in Dance, minoring in art history, from Old Dominion University and is currently pursuing her MFA in Dance at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign.

elizaBeth Simpson (performer) has been working with the conflicts and group dynamics of communities, organizations, and individuals for over 16 years. She is also a performance artist who incorporates vocal composition, puppetry, fire spinning, street theater, and storytelling. She specializes in collaborative projects with people who would not call themselves “Artists.”

Jayne Wenger (dramaturg) is a director and dramaturg whose exclusive focus is on original material. She is the past Artistic Director of the Bay Area Playwrights Foundation and was the Artistic Director of Women’s Ensemble of NYC. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, LMDA, Altertheater and The League of Professional Theater Woman.

Nicki Werner (installation artist/stage manager) is returning to The Unreliable Bestiary after working on ELEPHANT in 2010. She is an emerging sculptor who sometimes moonlights as a stage manager.  She earned her Master of Fine Arts from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2012.  Recent career highlights include a 2012-2013 teaching stint at Illinois State University at the School of Art and a summer artist residency at Figure One Gallery in downtown Champaign.  She is very excited and grateful to be working on WOLF.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

WOLF will happen with or without this funding, but without Kickstarter funding, our budget will cramp. With your WOLF participation we’ll flesh out the skeletal artist honoraria, rental and material budgets. With the funding, we will all breath more easily. The $5,000 amount was set as a realistic first-time Kickstarter goal but we could use all the help we can get. The project has support from the Illinois Arts Council and The University of Illinois (Campus Research Board, College of Fine and Applied Arts, Center For Advanced Study, and eDREAM).


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    A virtual lick on the mouth, recognition on The Unreliable Bestiary website and WOLF program. And big smiling gratitude.

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    An 11”x17” WOLF poster (digital download), signed THANK YOU! on one of the beautiful Unreliable Bestiary cards mailed to you, and the above.

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    11”x17” WOLF poster (mailed), an Unreliable Bestiary DVD (Region1) of your choice (MONKEY, ELEPHANT, or WOLF), and the above.

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    WOLF or ELEPHANT tote bag, and the above.

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    Choice of WOLF or ELEPHANT t-shirt, two reserve seats on the September 2013 WOLF bus, and the above. And gratitude. And happiness.

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    Choice of 22”x 34” WOLF or ELEPHANT inkjet-print poster, and the above. Oh … and Deke will buy you a cuppa joe (he likes the coffee at Café Paradiso). He will tell you the secret pack code and emergency howl.

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    All of the above plus the choice of a limited edition Unreliable Bestiary (MONKEY, ELEPHANT, or WOLF) perfect-bound, paperback book. The books – designed by Deke - include the script and images from the show, and other fabulous details (sheet music, cutting room-floor tidbits, sketches, surprises). There’s no doubt about it: you’re in the pack.

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    Limited edition ELEPHANT print (drawing by Deke, produced by Molly Briggs/Caladium Editions), and the above. And love. And affection.

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    Zero-balancing bodywork session with Jennifer Allen (in Champaign - travel not included), invitation for two to the exclusive final dress-rehearsal of WOLF, and the above.

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    The Unreliable Bestiary artist book of your choice (MONKEY, ELEPHANT, or WOLF – limited edition, ink-jet printed, full color, hand-made, lovingly petted, hard-bound). Deke and Jen will cook you a candlelit dinner for two at their place in Champaign (or anywhere in the lower 48 United States … but if you’re somewhere else – let’s talk) and then Deke will perform for the two of you (or a small gathering of your friends) his Small Leashed Monkey piece. Plus you will receive joy and acknowledgement as a wise alpha wolf of cunning, endurance, fortitude, strength, humor, and foresight. Oh. Yeah. And all of that amazing booty listed above.

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