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The Homebound Project Series #3: Different and Dynamic Shades of Champions

The Homebound Project Series #3: Different and Dynamic Shades of Champions

This time around, it is images of #BlackLivesMatter protests and rage, peppered with peace and activism that ushers us into The Homebound Project, the third edition of the independent, online theater initiative created to help feed children affected by COVID-19 running online June 24-28. The series has found and gathered an amazing array of leading and emerging actors, directors, 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. To date, this online theater initiative has raised over $73,000 for No Kid Hungry. Let me know if you’d like complimentary press access to this week’s video.

To learn more about The Homebound Project, please watch this Beond.TV interview w/ actor Thomas Sadoski and director Jenna Worsham and don’t miss this stunning photo of Phillipa Soo in The New Yorker.

The playwrights for the third edition of The Homebound Project have been given the prompt of “champions.” This new collection also features the work of stage directors Leigh Silverman (2ST’s Grand Horizons), Kevin Laibson (Oni No Yume’s Demon Dreams), Steven Pasquale (LCT’s JUNK),  Jerry Zaks (Broadway’s A Bronx Tale), Taylor Reynolds (Clubbed Thum’s Plano), and organizer, Jenna Worsham to help this band of actors and playwrights find their way into our collective theatrical souls, along with one quick shot of music by Parí. The whole project finds fist up power in their champions within every short play and finds all different shades of deliverance within these few minutes of connection.

The Homebound Project has become a powerful and dynamic place of streamed theater, constructed to raise awareness of the desperate challenges that exist during this self-isolating time, and the need for a diverse group of champions to look up to while concurrently raising funds for nonprofit organizations working at the forefront of the pandemic to help hungry children in need. The third batch of the series finds a multi-dimensional level of punched up power to be thrown forward as it streams out to us all on Vimeo. It is as authentic and emotionally present as the first two, distilling engagements of emotional truth, and sharp connections within storytelling that registers and instills meaning. It’s passionate and pointed, worthy of your time and the hour and a half it will take to dive into the tales told by these wonderful artists and collaborators. So walk up to that door, like Daveed Diggs (Public’s White Noise) so strongly and meaningfully does in the solid piece of writing by C.A. Johnson called “here and now” and engage with the need to talk more, more than he ever wanted to before. To find some form of forgiveness and the opposite of all that in this deeply powerful bit of story-telling that encompasses isolation and the deep shame of looking away far too often when the reverse is what’s needed. This “mad beautiful” honest engagement is worth its weight in donated gold. So donate, for a third straight time, as the piece arrives and starts formulating its multiple shades of advocacy with a strong sense of purpose and stride.

Champions” is the prompt given to this third round of playwrights to rise to, and the playwrights find with a flourish such different and unique angles to delve into, some more poignantly than others. Most find a shade that delivers an idea that sticks and radiates outward, but all bring a personal voice that registers. “The Morning Message…“, directed by Leigh Silverman, sneaks in at the very beginning and flies forward with a wide-eyed sense of childlike wonder. Performed with an effortless sense of ease by Ashley Park (Broadway’s Mean Girls), the piece that gives away nothing finds despair quite close to a chocolate cake recipe and presents love for who you really are inside the act of contemplating a feather. Beautifully written by Bess Wohl (2ST’s Make Believe), the lists of the things we all needed to hear but no one ever told us hits hard and true, demanding attention. It’s a call to arms and a plea for action that builds up much higher than first anticipated, and “then we’ll stop“. That powerfulness at a second-grade level fills our heart with the wonder of great guidance given, as does Phillipa Soo (Broadway’s Amélie), in “checking in“, which finds depth and uncertainty in ever “I’m good“, and tension within her “some lows and some highs.”  As written by Clare Barron (Dance Nation) and directed by Steven Pasquale, the energy and awareness of seeing her face fluctuate carries us through, and it all registers so subtly that the whole piece makes us breathless,. Will Pullen (Broadway’s Sweat) does the same, most dynamically in “A Very Special Message…” giving us emotive tension at every twist and turn. Written with a tight sensibility by the always fantastic Samuel D. Hunter (Rattlestick’s  Lewiston/Clarksonand directed by Worsham, the honest attempt to celebrate an aunt from the attic finds unfair beauty in memory and familial conflict.  It’s one of the most touching and true moments of this compilation, as the shifting dynamics of energy and love find their way most wonderfully through a patchwork of delivery and entanglements into our captivated heart with compassion.

Donnette Lavinia Grays (Where We Stand) as directed by Worsham, makes us wonder, about life, connection, and the green in the eye of the other with her “idle hands“. Enacted by the magnificent Ralph Brown (Broadway’s The Ferryman), the man sees his neighbor, but is only frustrated by his invading eyes. He tends to worry, while hearing the moaning of the girls and the house that gives him a resemblance of peace and poetry. His delivery finds epic uncomfortable drama inward almost magically, while guiding us around his home with repetitious delicacy, in the opposite way that Joshua Leonard (2015’s “6 Years“) finds epic giddy guidance in the wildness of his “hi buddy“, located somewhere, most manically, in the core of “mourning swan“. Written by Mara Nelson-Greenberg (Do You Feel Anger?) and directed by Worsham, the ode to selfishness radiates a level of strange uncle care that might be a lot for a five-year-old to deal with and take in, alongside that back tattoo, but the swan story that turns into a very thin pancake finds non-judgemental engagement in its own brand of awesome worry, giving us a unique vantage point in the idea of being there for someone at their own unique level. Hitting a muscular stride, but maybe not quite as compelling as some, “bird chest” demands us to look at the pumped Blair Underwood (ABC’s Quantico) as he wisely asks us to see how hard he is working. He performs the piece by Korde Arrington Tuttle (graveyard shift) with a greedy slice of attentive neediness as if to please one’s mother.  The piece is strongly muscled, finding some very good cinematic angles within the three in one, but fumbles in its heartfelt attachment, just like Xavier Galva (The Parlour) does with his therapeutic engagement, “I’m a Winner Not a Loser”. Extremely well delivered by Arian Moayed (Broadway’s The Humans), the aggressive discomfort finds its way most uncomfortably inside (especially for this real-life psychotherapist), who has seen this brand of narcissism first hand, and understands the hard-to-relate authenticity of his brand of lovely winning. It’s difficult to be the focal point of this man, but when time is up, we all feel that sigh of relief while simultaneously feel an entanglement of care and compassion.

I Was Gonna Win But Then” by Gina Femia (We Are a Masterpiece), as directed by Taylor Reynolds, finds Paola Lázaro (Signature’s Our Lady of 121st Street) sprinting down the street weaving together a hypnotic scenario that is out front and so very fast. It’s a tight monologue of words, asking for help for a pair of torn crushed wings, and finding glorious weight in its vomit of hard stones. It’s quiet and real, pulling us in quickly and precisely, and delivering us to Femia’s finishing line dead last, but with ultimate intimate glory. The multi-dynamic colors of guidance resonate outward as luminous as the light on Eve Lindley’s (Netflix’s ‘Tales of the City) captivating face, unleashing “blue pink hot pink yellow” colors on the time when we raccoon scavengers were young, or should I say, younger. As written by Daniel Talbott (Yosemite), and directed by Kevin Laibson, the deep pools of wide-eyed delivery find the vast and gorgeous assortment of shades within, when mom wasn’t all that into helping. The piece manages a smile of knowing that is both true and fulfilling, and doesn’t fail us in its attachment to some form of love. It swims in the subtle power of someone rooting for me, unlike the bigger louder crazier phone call from the past that rings in “satori” by John Guare (A Free Man of Color), as directed by Jerry Zaks. That one-way two-dimensional conversation of wild insane awakening flies straight into the face of Jennifer Carpenter (Showtime’s ‘Dexter‘) with declarative tension when Thomas Sadoski (Public’s White Noise) calls in his conspiracy. It brilliantly finds shock and horror in the observing face of Carpenter as she stares with transfixed bewilderment into the phone, giving us a colorful arrangement of something we all secretly can connect to during this politically charged time.

Diane Lane (Goodman’s Sweet Bird of Youth) in a work by the wonderful Michael R. Jackson (A Strange Loop) titled “let’s save the world” lastly finds snapshots and distorted memories in dreams of urgency as only Diane Lane could illuminate with such earthy passion. Directed by Leigh Silverman, the last piece of the puzzle finds liberation, healing, growth, and freedom, all on the wings of women worldwide. They are the ones we have been waiting for, and we hope they can help save the world one thorny issue at a time. That glory uplifted my soul, making me excited to see what the fourth in this series can bring. And as the tension and power rise up to the occasion as if born on the backs of these glorious winged creatures, I breathe in to the need for champions and exhale my frustration and despair.

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 streamed online May 20, and the third edition will stream online June 24-28. Tickets to the third collection are now available at homeboundtheater.org.

Catya_McMullen_Jenna_Worsham
Catya McMullen & Jenna Worsham.

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.

The second edition of The Homebound Project was available May 20–24, 2020 (you can read about it by clicking here), and featured Utkarsh Ambudkar in a work by Marco Ramirez, Ngozi Anyanwu in a work by Anne Washburn, Nicholas Braun in a work by Will Arbery, Betty Gilpin in a work by Lily Houghton, Kimberly Hébert Gregory in a work by Loy A. Webb, Hari Nef in a work by Ngozi Anyanwu, Mary-Louise Parker in a work by Bryna Turner, Christopher Oscar Peña in a work by Brittany K. Allen, Taylor Schilling in a work by Sarah DeLappe, Babak Tafti in a work by David Zheng, and Zachary Quinto in a work by Adam Bock. As well as special appearances by chef Marcus Samuelsson and actor Amanda Seyfried.

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.

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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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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