Images of empty classrooms and spaces sadly usher us into The Homebound Project, a new independent, online theater initiative created to help feed children affected by COVID-19 running online May 6-10. The series has gathered over fifty leading and emerging actors and playwrights united together by playwright Catya McMullen (A**holes in Gas Stations, Locked Up B*tches) and director Jenna Worsham (Rattlestick’s The Sibling Play) to create a new dimension in theatre-viewing that is both riveting and heartbreaking in its poetic beauty and honesty.
The Homebound Project is majestic and important theater, made to raise awareness of the desperate challenges of this self-isolating time, while also raising funds for nonprofit organizations working at the forefront of the pandemic to help hungry children in need. The first of the series, available for streaming on Vimeo, delivers with a punch on a number of unique and exciting levels. It is authentic and emotionally present, distilling snippets of thoughts, and acute slices of storytelling that registers and connects. It’s passionate and pointed, worthy of your time and the hour it will take to dive into the tales told by these wonderful artists and collaborators. So dig in, this meal is worth its weight in donated gold. And then donate, because that is really what this is all about.
The first team of playwrights were given the prompt of “home.” (Forthcoming collections will focus on themes of “sustenance.”). All fill their slots with ideas and images that connect to the theme of “home” “where my hat hangs high“, a slice of the poetry of Qui Nguyen (Vietgone) in “Homesick“, delivered with purpose and humor by the amazingly Hamilton‘d Raymond Lee (“Mozart in the Jungle“). Alison Pill (Broadway’s Three Tall Women), in “diversions“, captivates us instantly within the first short play by C.A. Johnson (All The Natalie Portmans) with words and a delivery that is as smooth as scotch sipped on a hot porch, and is just as powerfully strong and tasty. Ren Dara Santiago (The Siblings Play) asks us to tune in and hear “Building Models” being assembled, projecting the image of an “always son“, played lovingly by Glenn Davis (Steppenwolf’s The Christian) describe-watching his son build something monumental that connects most beautifully with his own father, if only he can be sure the audio is turned on. Jessica Hecht’s (LCT’s Admissions) voice and heart in “What do you Want...” by Sarah Ruhl (For Peter Pan…), rings so honest and clear. It opens up the space quietly when hope screams while simultaneously being underestimated. The piece magically and delicately finds the right key to quiet the cries, as so many of these beautifully written and performed pieces do. It is truly astounding to witness.
Elizabeth Rodriguez (Broadway’s The Motherfucker with the Hat) in a work called “Eszter” by Rajiv Joseph (Describe the Night), dives into the zone, pretending to be inside a heated fake trip of conversational detachment “coming in hot“. It flies strong and then doubles down the deception into a place of heartbreaking truth, sneaking up and sinking in before you are even aware or ready. “The Jessicas” by Eliza Clark (The Metaphysics of Breakfast) finds futuristic honesty in the brilliantly twisted authenticity of Marin Ireland (ATC’s Blue Ridge) as she tingles with the thought of an ordinary life, hangovers et al., while standing in a place where the grass is somewhat too green for our supposedly healthy body to take in. There’s quirky beauty in her complex entanglements, just like Christopher Abbott (Williamstown’s Fool for Love), who sobers us up in a tender piece of work by Lucy Thurber (Transfers) titled “Port Isabel“. Thomas Sadoski (Public’s White Noise) shared the beautiful touching moments of food, shelter, and a place to go to dream and drink in “Love Letter to an Irish Pub“, a delicate connection of a play by Martyna Majok, a playwright who was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Cost of Living. William Jackson Harper (NBC’s “The Good Place“) gives us quick bite-sized snippets from a man with too much time on his hands, in the delectable “Father” by Max Posner (The Treasurer), who finds the tender tasty spots within questions like “have I ever been essential?“. It’s quick and poignant, delivering the goods with sharp jabs at our heart, leading us gently and assuredly to the finale with Amanda Seyfried (‘Mean Girls‘) in a work by Catya McMullen (Missed Connection) that finds a perfect balance between trouble and sweetness. “I look at a doorknob and see a plague” and we all connect with those exacting words and fear with a clarity of vision that envelopes the whole seventy-minute journey. It’s delicious and emotional, and something every one of us can connect to and find deliverance in its perfect presentation.
Each edition of The Homebound Project features a collection of 10 new theater works, written by homebound playwrights and recorded by sheltering actors. View-at-home tickets begin at a donation level of $10, with all proceeds benefiting No Kid Hungry, a national campaign helping to feed countless children living with hunger.
The Homebound Project is currently scheduled to include three editions, with each collection of new works available to stream over a strictly limited 4-day period. The first edition will stream online beginning at 7pm on Wednesday, May 6 until 7pm on Sunday, May 10. Subsequent editions will air May 20–24 and June 3–7. Tickets to the first collection are now available at homeboundtheater.org.
Future editions will include actors Uzo Aduba, Betty Gilpin, André Holland, Joshua Leonard, Hari Nef, Ashley Park, Mary-Louise Parker, Will Pullen, and Zachary Quinto, along with playwrights Adam Bock, John Guare, Daniel Talbott, Anne Washburn, David Zheng, among many others.
Costume consultation by Andy Jean. Original music and sound design by Fan Zhang. Video editing and design by Jon Burkland/ZANNI Productions.
“The Homebound Project grew from a desire to support frontline organizations by doing what we artists do best: creating and gathering, in newly imagined ways,” says co-creator Jenna Worsham, who will direct a few of the works. “Our mission is to provide sustenance: critical provisions for those in need, an opportunity for isolated artists to collaborate, and (we hope) a way for audiences to access the communal empathy that theater provokes.”
Actor Thomas Sadoski says, “In a crisis, the artist’s responsibility becomes even more clear: we tell stories to entertain and to reflect. If we can give a moment’s peace, we will. But if we can do our job AND help the incredible folks at No Kid Hungry provide for our community, we are all in.”
“Childhood hunger has always been a crisis in our country, but with the pandemic, we believe that more kids are living with hunger than ever before,” said Billy Shore, executive chair of Share Our Strength, the organization behind the No Kid Hungrycampaign. “We’re truly proud and grateful to partner with The Homebound Project. What a great way for the theater community to literally share its strength, and to help feed kids now and in the months ahead.”
“In New York City alone, kids in need are missing nearly 850,000 school meals every day while schools are closed because of the coronavirus,” said Rachel Sabella, director of No Kid Hungry in New York. “We have a plan to feed kids, but the need is great, and it’s going to take all of us – actors, cafeteria staff, elected officials, everyday people – to offer the time, talent, and resources to reach them.”
Visit homeboundtheater.org for more information.
The Homebound Project has been made possible by the Theater Authority, through a generous partnership with Actors’ Equity Association, American Guild of Musical Artists, American Guild of Variety Artists, and SAG-AFTRA.
About No Kid Hungry
No child should go hungry in America. But millions don’t know where their next meal is coming from. No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger by helping launch and improve programs that give all kids the healthy food they need to thrive. This is a problem we know how to solve. No Kid Hungry is a campaign by Share Our Strength, an organization working to end hunger and poverty.
About The Homebound Project
The Homebound Project is a new independent theater initiative, focused on connecting sheltering artists and helping to feed children affected by COVID-19 in NYC and beyond. Founded by playwright Catya McMullen and director Jenna Worsham, The Homebound Project is theater made to support those working on the front lines of this crisis. Through an online theater platform, and as an all-volunteer artist team, their mission is two-fold: Raise funds for a nonprofit active in COVID-19 relief efforts, and make great theater with currently homebound artists.
For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com