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The Homebound Project Series #4: Promises Promises of a New Day

The Homebound Project Series #4: Promises Promises of a New Day

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.

The fourth edition of The Homebound Project will stream online beginning at 7pm on Wednesday, July 15 until 7pm on Sunday, July 19. View-at-home tickets are currently on sale at homeboundtheater.org and begin at a donation level of $10. Complimentary viewings for first responders and essential workers have been made possible by an anonymous donor. Each collection from this independent theater initiative is available to stream over a strictly limited 4-day period.

The playwrights for the fourth edition of The Homebound Project have been given the prompt of “promise.” The whole project finds promising power in their words of honor within every short play and discovers every different shade of deliverance within these few minutes of connection. ‘Service before self” is their motto and the motto of T-Bone and Team Rubicon that pledges to deliver this gem to us all.

The Homebound Project once again has found its purpose in its promise of being a powerful and dynamic place of streamed theater, constructed to raise awareness of the desperate challenges that exist during this self-isolating time. It pledges to raise funds for nonprofit organizations working at the forefront of the pandemic to help hungry children in need, and miraculously, in the fourth batch of the series, the crew finds a multi-dimensional level of wow in the vow, tossed forward with expertise as it streams out to us all on Vimeo. It is as authentic and emotionally present as the first three are, finding even more echos of emotional truth, and sharp connections within storytelling that register and instill meaning in the promise. It’s powerfully passionate and pointed, once again, if you can believe it, 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 find your way up to the lockbox, much like Cherry Jones (Broadway’s The Lifespan of a Fact) does so authentically in the tender piece of expert writing by Erin Courtney (A Map Of Virtue) titled “Emily” and be schooled in the mystery of what it means to keep a promise. Jones’ smile and the tapping on that box, as directed by Jenna Worsham, pull in the building of a tale that is so wisely constructed that the whole world seems like it could be inside that box. She closes her eyes, and we see it all, most ingeniously. This wildly wonderful mermaid doesn’t believe in ghosts, or promises, but her engagement in this tightly held vow is worth its weight in donated gold. So much so, that we “don’t want it to end“.

But we are only at the beginning of this adventure. “Promise” is the prompt given to this fourth round of playwrights to rise to, but it’s also the name of Charly Evon Simpson’s (form of a girl unknown) tender and beautifully real engagement performed with clarity by the wonderful Adam Faison (Freeform’s “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay.”). “I promise“… “one day“, registers cleanly, feeling like words crafted in magic, but the madness aimed at the man who uses the dream to get him on his side twists our heart in an unexpected glorious manner that tears a hole in the worth of the promise. It’s poignant and exciting in its construction, finding a flourish that uniquely angles in to delve down into unchartered territory, much like Emily Zemba (Clockwork) deftly does with her short play, “Cold Feet“. It sneaks in so casually, especially in the dynamic initial delivery of “Hi, Hi” by the wonderfully engaging Santino Fontana (Broadway’s Tootsie), and then shifts purposefully when the feet apparently do get cold. “Can we pause to see how weird this is?“, is the question of the day, dangling a promise of unsolved mysteries that is the opposite of unsatisfying, just as we start to see clearly the thing that we should be making sense of.

Halley Feiffer (The Pain of my Belligerence) also adroitly questions most amazingly the world we are currently protesting and trying to survive in with “A Weird Sport“. In a mind-blowingly tender and tense performance by Amber Tamblyn (‘Stephanie Daley’), who ratchets up the debate through an update about a video that is watched when a wife is asked not to. The piece crashes forward like breaking news, finding difficult love yous inside that casual ignorance when the pieces are put together. The realization of “if he looked like us, it wouldn’t have happened” lands hard and gentle, telling a worldwide tale as simply and carefully as making a sandwich for some children who will most likely get hungry later. “The Window” by Boo Killebrew (“Mrs. America“) tells us it’s her last shot, and that it is all going to be just fine, but this one piece somewhat fails to connect, even with the heartfelt delivery of Mary Wiseman (Chautauqua Theater’s Clybourne Park). She works “so so hard” not to disappoint, but the words don’t add up or follow the gaze through the glass as powerfully as the performance. “As Soon as the Phone Rang, I Knew” manages to avoid the same trap, clarifying its promise to a grandmother in need of a song and some care. Written with tenderness by Harrison David Rivers (Broadbend, Arkansas) and directed by Colette Robert (EST’s Something Like Loneliness), Jon-Michael Reese (Two Rivers’ Theo) finds authenticity and connectivity with us all as he digs in around a time to weep.

Janine Nabers (Welcome to Jesus) finds sunglassed anxiety in her fantastically scripted “Really, Sarah?” Knowing full well what it looks like, the hiding and the stalking of a daughter rings true and tense, making us wonder about the mother’s sanity and her intimate ability to connect. “Fuck! Sorry!” is tossed out by the epically delicious Lisa Edelstein (Fox’s “House“) in a mad dive to stay unnoticed. With her delicious delivery, we can’t help but hear her out and take a seat beside her as she pulls it together to say hello to her sweetie, regardless of Steve. Sue Jean Kim’s (Public’s Office Hour) delivery strongly in “The Rat” fulfilling the promise of a good story at every flip-flopped turn of phrase. Outwardly magically, the weirdness of the running into finds so many intricate details crafted inside this Soho (technically TriBeCa) tale that leaps a mile upward with its back-breaking creation. “What are the odds?” you might ask in all seriousness, but as written skillfully by Leslye Headland and Claire Rothrock (Netflix’s “Russian Doll“) as directed by Annie Tippe (Signature’s Octet), you gladly step up to the story and find the hidden promise in the attachment with chain-smoking glee. Saddling up to the overflowing feast of  “Meat and Other Broken Promises”, Marquise Vilsón (“The Kitchen“) in a work by Migdalia Cruz (Lucy Loves Me) and directed by Cándido Tirado (La Canción), a photograph is held up in a way that shields our eyes from the recipient of this vocalized place filled with some kind of joy, and maybe even hope. Can it haunt us? This photography, and the memories it brings forth of ample dinners and fried spam, with an egg on top, when the strike line is or isn’t crossed, delivers the promise of faith in it’s disco flair and a breath of new-found air. Imagine that. It demands attention to the multi courses that layer the piece with power, just like “Assets“, a work by Diana Oh (MTC’s Cookie Fight) the takes us down a pink rigged journey, corsetted and delivered with manic energy by the wise and wonderful Tommy Dorfman (Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why). He’s a Queen, not a bitch, but he also doesn’t give away the promise, before the interactive dance break and the flip and hold. As directed by Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls“), this clever diatribe written with clever wit by the intermission goddess Oh doesn’t let us see where it is going until the phone ring breaks the shit down, and we sit back inside the clever distortion. And then there is Judith Light (MCC’s All The Ways To Say I Love You) in a work called “All the Old Familiar Places” written with intensity by Jon Robin Baitz (Other Desert Cities), that should most definitely be in all our systems going forward. The trick is in the long hold times and the patience required to navigate the request and get it all down right. Light flies forward unabashed with a filter that fails and flames out most dynamically and domestically, and as directed by Leigh Silverman (Public’s Soft Power) the impossibility of the promise within cracks the controlled surface and delivers a performance that is definitely not generic in any way shape or form. It is as if Light is allergic to the generic, and finds force and dramatic power in her request for salvation from the pandemic and the crumbling world around her. “Listen, I tried…” and as a whole, this Project from the Homebound continues to find it’s sure-footedness in the promise to deliver the most touching and true moments of theatrical expertise and engagement. Giving their communal word of honor to No Kids Hungry, 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. Hopefully, it will loosen the purse strings, and you’ll find the loving ability to tune in and donate to this great cause. I promise you most sincerely, you won’t be disappointed.

Each edition of The Homebound Project features a collection of 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 five 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 June 24-28. This fourth edition is currently streaming July 15-19, with the fifth and final streaming Aug 5-9. Tickets to the fourth 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.

The third edition of The Homebound Project was available June 24–28, 2020 (you can read about it by clicking here), and featured Ralph Brown in a work by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, directed by Jenna Worsham; Jennifer Carpenter and Thomas Sadoski in a work by John Guare, directed by Jerry Zaks; Daveed Diggs in a work by C.A. Johnson; Diane Lane in a work by Michael R. Jackson, directed by Leigh Silverman; Paola Lázaro in a work by Gina Femia, directed by Taylor Reynolds; Joshua Leonard in a work by Mara Nelson-Greenberg, directed by Jenna Worsham; Eve Lindley in a work by Daniel Talbott, directed by Kevin Laibson; Arian Moayed in a work by Xavier Galva; Ashley Park in a work by Bess Wohl, directed by Leigh Silverman; Will Pullen in a work by Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Jenna Worsham; Phillipa Soo in a work by Clare Barron, directed by Steven Pasquale; and Blair Underwood in a work by Korde Arrington Tuttle. As well as special appearances by NASCAR driver and US Naval Officer Jesse Iwuji and 2020 Pulitzer Prize-Winner Michael R. Jackson.

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.

Off Broadway
@#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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