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The Homebound Project Series #2: Great and Meaningful Theatre on an IPhone

The Homebound Project Series #2: Great and Meaningful Theatre on an IPhone
Catya_McMullen_Jenna_Worsham

This time around, it is images of produce-filled bags of care delivered to a door intermingled with the writing of art and poetry that ushers us into The Homebound Project, the second edition of the independent, online theater initiative created to help feed children affected by COVID-19 running online May 20-24. The series has found and 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 another grouping of theatre-viewing that is both riveting and powerful in its poetic beauty and honesty.

The playwrights for the second edition of The Homebound Project have been given the prompt of “sustenance.” This new collection also features the work of stage directors Trip Cullman (Broadway’s Choir BoyLobby Hero), Taylor Reynolds (Clubbed Thum’s Plano), Danya Taymor (Vineyard/TNG’s “Daddy”), Caitriona McLaughlin (Abbey Stage’s The Boy) and organizer, Jenna Worsham to help this band of actors and playwrights find their way into our collective theatrical souls. The whole project, along with a special appearance by award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson, deliver nutritious sustenance within every short play and packs a sense of connection within the plea for help.

The Homebound Project is majestic and dyanmic 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 second batch of the series finds another basket of power to be delivered with a punch as it streams for a limited period of time on Vimeo. It is as authentic and emotionally present as the first, distilling slices of emotional truth, and sharp chunks 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, for a second time, as Zachary Quinto (Broadway’s The Boys in the Band) asks again and again in the awe-inspiring “I Promise” written by Adam Bock (A Life) that shifts and serves up all the things we miss, but also opens all the doors to our hidden secrets within, like cookies being delivered to our door, and tik-tok dancing, because, as we all know, finding that sustenance within is really what this is all about.

Sustenance” is the prompt given to this second round of playwrights to unpack. These playwrights find different and unique angles to address the function, some more pointedly than others, but most find a vantage point that delivers an idea that sticks. “The Hands“, a delicate unveiling by Loy A. Webb (The Light), delivers with an engaging sense of humility by the gorgeous Kimberly Hébert Gregory (HBO’s “Vice Principals“). Even as she presents hesitantly the invited little ol’ me for inspection, she discovers the strength in her kinda beat-up worn physicality of work, as they’ve seen great miracles and heartfelt despair, which makes them as worthwhile as beauty and billions. That reveal fills our heart with sustenance, as does Ngozi Anyanwu (Vineyard’s Good Grief, which she also wrote), in “Comfort Food“, lighting up a rage that is most great, especially when properly utilized. She speaks passionately within the first play of the series, written by Anne Washburn (Mr. Burns) direct to the sparkly virus that is as invisible as the rage that will carry us through, as solidly as baked bread, and just as powerfully strong and holy.

Will Arbery (Heroes of the Fourth Turning) destroys our heart with strange animal behavior embodied by the magnificent Nicholas Braun (‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower‘) as a man transcending his flesh. He dynamically attempts to become eligible for godliness by denying the natural tendencies of humanity. It’s utterly painful to watch, and heartbreakingly real, to see a man claim that love is both painful and weak, that is until the reckoning comes with the heaviest of extra weight. It is one of those short plays that is filled to the rim within seconds and captivates by making the food hard to swallow, in the best of all possible ways. It’s in the projecting of good cheer that we locate the core of “Zoom on Toast“. Played enthusiastically by Christopher Oscar Peña (HBO’s “Insecure“), the morsel delivers just that with deep certainty in a short testimony to friendship and love written with compassion by Brittany K. Allen (Redwood). Hitting so hard, but maybe not quite as deep as some, “You Best Believe” another short play about friendship by David Zheng (Boogie Down Bastards), performed by Babak Tafti (PH’s The Profane) finds some good in every bad moment between best buds, but remember, don’t mess up friends with money, it will always end with matching blows. “Worms” wiggle out of the zucchini into the holes of our brain in Lily Houghton’s (Coconut Oil) captivating a metaphoric one-sided conversation conducted with precision by Betty Gilpin (Netflix’s ‘GLOW‘) that disconnects, but takes up space without paying any rent or making any bread. It grabs hold of our emptiness with a symbolic bread-crumbed wiggle and wink that tastes as good as it fills our souls.

With “the prophet Cassandra sees a different future” by Bryna Turner (Bull in a China Shop), the goddess Mary Louise Parker (Broadway’s The Sound Inside) chops together a hypnotic scenario that leads to a symbolic new prophecy that may break the heart, but then something changes in the aloneness of it all. The deliciousness of the delivery resonates outward, just like Taylor Schilling (Netflix’s ‘Orange Is the New Black’), who pulls at her face with a force, unleashing “Gossip” with some aspect much more than solid efficiency. The magnificently subtle unmasking, by Sarah DeLappe (The Wolves), swims straight into my face and yours, with declarative tension when she is asked point-blank about Roger. It brilliantly twists and tugs, but then snaps off, much like the punch given by Hari Nef (TNG/Vineyard’s “Daddy”) in “Here is Good” a grand piece of work by Ngozi Anyanwu (The Homecoming Queen) who we earlier saw perform in the first piece, “Comfort Food“.  Trying to conserve her energy under a layer of comfort, she presents the place where truth is and where anything could happen. Lies live outside, she says, but in here, it feels like home. The dynamic is hot, new, and somewhat dangerous.

Marco Ramirez (Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’) also uncovers something new and pop-culturally meta-referential with “Is This a Play Yet“. Performed with a simultaneous love cringe by the wonderful Utkarsh Ambudkar (“Brittany Runs a Marathon“), this perfect piece of theatre on an iPhone is magnificently transparent, telling us all the things we would like. But here’s the kicker, it’s now a play with a twisted ending while not being forced to sit in those uncomfortable chairs. It’s terribly clear and wonderfully direct, giving a fatherly cradle to our inner desires and wishes for the things we would all love to have the opportunity to hate once again. It’s the real deal, and one of the best surprises of the hour-long adventure.  Each find their way to draw us in and connect through their exacting and exciting words. It’s delicious and emotional clear-minded, and something every one of us can digest, and find delicate deliverance in its perfect packaging.Catya McMullen & Jenna Worsham.

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 streamed online May 6 -10. The second edition will stream online beginning at 7pm on Wednesday, May 20 until 7pm on Sunday, May 24. The third edition will air June 3–7. Tickets to the second collection are now available at homeboundtheater.org.

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. “The response from our artistic community of volunteers has been intense and moving. While theaters, schools, and our physical places of gathering may be empty, it’s clear that our imaginations are not. We are overwhelmed by the spirit of creative generosity that is filling the empty space.”

“The outpouring of support from artists and audiences alike has been truly incredible,” said Billy Shore, executive chair of Share Our Strength, the organization behind the No Kid Hungry campaign. “We’re so grateful to The Homebound Project and all the viewers that are helping bring sustenance to children who so desperately need it both during and beyond this crisis.”

“Because of the coronavirus, 1 in 4 children in the United States could face hunger this year – including thousands of kids in New York City,” said Rachel Sabella, director of No Kid Hungry in New York. “We can’t thank The Homebound Project enough for their support, and we must continue to raise the funds and awareness needed for all kids to count on three healthy meals a day.”

The Homebound Project features costume consultation by Andy Jean, original music and sound design by Fan Zhang, and video editing and design by Jon Burkland/ZANNI Productions.

The first edition of The Homebound Project was available May 6–10, 2020 (you can read about it by clicking here), and featured Christopher Abbott in a work by Lucy Thurber, Glenn Davis in a work by Ren Dara Santiago, William Jackson Harper in work by Max Posner, Jessica Hecht in a work by Sarah Ruhl, Marin Ireland in a work by Eliza Clark, Raymond Lee in a work by Qui Nguyen, Alison Pill in a work by C.A. Johnson, Elizabeth Rodriguez in a work by Rajiv Joseph, Thomas Sadoski in a work by Martyna Majok, and Amanda Seyfried in a work by The Homebound Project co-creator Catya McMullen.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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