This is the last go-around for The Homebound Project, as images of empty classrooms and silent playgrounds fade into the reality of lunchrooms not being used to feed the hungry kids across this nation. It is against these formulations, peppered with background political banter of classrooms opening before the appropriate and safe time that folds us into the last and final edition of The Homebound Project, the independent, online theater initiative created to help feed children affected by COVID-19 running online beginning at 7pm EST on Wednesday, August 5 until 7pm EST on Sunday, August 9. The series has craftily gathered an incredible 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 deliver another deck of theatre-viewing cards that is both provocative and dynamic in its organic beauty and creativity. To date, this online theater initiative has raised over $100,000 for No Kid Hungry, a national campaign working to end childhood hunger. Through No Kid Hungry, this amount can help connect kids in need across the country with up to 1 million healthy meals. For this fifth and final edition of The Homebound Project, an anonymous donor will be matching all donations, dollar for dollar, up to $20,000.
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 fifth edition of The Homebound Project have been given the prompt of “homemade” and in that framework, the artists have crafted a promising power in their words within every short play, discovering nuance in every delicate folding of the page. The Homebound Project again has found its purpose in its promise creating honest collaborative dynamics within the confines of isolated productions of streamed theater, constructed to raise awareness of the desperate challenges that exist during this self-isolating time. The project pledges to raise funds for nonprofit organizations working at the forefront of the pandemic to help hungry children in need, and miraculously, in the fifth batch of the series, the artist once again has found a way to make wondrous art out of very little, finding a multi-dimensional level of expertise and inventiveness as it streams out to us all on Vimeo. It is as authentic and emotionally present as the first four, finding even more layers of emotional truth, and funny sharp connections within storytelling that register and instill meaning in the promise in the small confinement of time and space. 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, much like Joslyn DeFreece (2018’s “Strange Angel“) does so ridiculously well in the hyper-frantic piece of desperate writing by Lloyd Suh (Jesus in India), directed strongly by Colette Robert (EST/Marathon’s Something Like Loneliness) titled “Crafting with Chloe.” She’s one of your hosts for this intimate posting, this one at her distressingly curious in-laws, trying to make something beautiful out of the nothingness that nowadays no one has and probably doesn’t need. It’s intense and silly in its sharp dementia, as Chloe dives in and sends out the recording to her followers with hopes of getting something positive back in return. We definitely do.
But “Folding Paper” is really the first great dynamic fold in this adventurous project in Basil Kreimendahl’s (We’re Gonna Be Okay) short drama, as directed with skill by actress Samantha Soule (Broadway’s Dinner at Eight). The manhood test fits right into the creases of paper birds that get beautifully stuck and shredded here. “I don’t know how to make shit” stings deep like a tender paper cut in this epic engagement of truth performed with “I get it” clarity by the dynamic Cesar J. Rosado (Broadway’s upcoming Plaza Suite). “They think I’m not worthy“ is another tasty morsel of deliciousness dropped off by a man who obviously is worthy of everything he desires in “tres leches.” Portrayed with a fierceness that registers completely by Ryan J. Haddad (“The Politician“) in an awe-inspiring piece of work by Christopher Oscar Peña (Tiny People) as directed by Jaki Bradley (Berkeley Rep’s White Noise), “did you have me followed?” feeds the perfectly delivered point that is crafted in baked-on magic. But, where this tasty sensation leads is more than an active thing to survive but a proclamation in a ridiculous time and place, delivered with force to a touching idiot. It’s flavourful and exciting in its construction, finding placement in the audacity of its unchartered territory. Much like Donnetta Lavinia Grays ( 2017’s “Happy!“) deftly does with her “Pretty Brown Eyes” that sneaks in on us with its sweet edged talk of making him internet famous by way of miracles and soldiers, inhabited tenderly by the wonderful Andy Lucien (“Detroit ’67“). “Love looks like a mixtape,” he says delightfully with his old school slow jam delivery, and then, elegantly records an everyday miracle of the next generation to mess with our spirit without giving us any advance warning. Another miracle is the all-inclusive “Othering” by Craig Lucas (I Was Most Alive With You) who finds force in the delicate delivery of Austin Pendleton (MTC’s Choir Boy) with his phoned-in speech for a conservative mindset reunion. It’s systematically for the “ones who made fun of me, ignored me,” he says, and then, with delicate tenacity, he dives into decades of repressed frustrations for much more than what it first appears to be. It’s a complicated piece of finding a little bit of love in the homemade compassion of “Othering” and of not belonging. It’s all inside the failure to protect, as directed by Pam MacKinnon (PH’s Log Cabin), where understanding unfolds before our wide sympathetic eyes without judgment.
“She’s not that creative“, is the declarative statement made by the hypnotic Lena Dunham (HBO’s “Girls“), the writer and actor in “Maureen“, dangling some provocative tales of a roommate’s “drunken tomfoolery“, played out in front of her very wide eyes, shocking her closed-down system most cleverly. As directed by Maggie Burrows (Geffen Playhouse’s Man of God), the idea that she might be wrong and the reveal that comes when its clear “something is going around“, is presented clearly but in a way that resonates most assuredly, finding complexity in the direct attempt for enlightenment. In the more intricate and produced “Fractio Panis” by Melis Aker (Field, Awakening) with Brian Cox (LCT’s The Great Society), Nicole Ansari-Cox, and the family of two young sons, the portrait of a quarantined family as directed by Tatiana Pandiani (Schaeffer Black Box’s Fefu and her Friends) rises like culturally-infused bread, but fails to be as satisfying as many of the more subtle pieces. Although the humor of the broader dynamic is refreshing, as is the playfulness of disconnection and unity, the overall impact left me hungry for more. The same could be said of the happy place created by Lindsey Ferrentino (This Flat Earth) for Broadway star Kelli O’Hara (RTC’s Kiss Me Kate) to deliver in the well-heeled “My Channel.” As directed by Scott Ellis (RTC’s She Loves Me), a shift change is felt by her friends and followers, and is dutifully explained with a smile and a southern twang. As it is very complicated out there and inside this woman’s head, she tries her best but is far from speechless. She always has a lot to say, she tells us, “this is me, saying more” but in the end, even as I closed my eyes imagining somewhere we really want to be, as instructed, I couldn’t find the sustenance that I had hoped for when I first tuned in.
Sylvia Khoury (LCT3’s Power Strip) shines a solidly smart light on a man, played intensely by Daniel K. Isaac (Showtime’s “Billions“) who so wants to be found and taken away from this pandemic world we all inhabit. He’s eager and ready, explicitly, asking to be seen as containing all the compelling qualities one might be looking for, but not in the way we first hear it. Totally alone, frustrated and desperate to be saved, the reality of this man rings heavy and true: “Look at that small little man” we are told, inside a compelling complex homemade creation and the twist rings deep and the unfolding unsettlingly good. Johnny Sibilly (FX’s “Pose“) in a complex work by Korde Arrington Tuttle (Netflix’s “Mix Tape“) called “rainbow boa“, also finds an edge of delicate desperation in the explicit notes he shares with us as he delivers the magic that abounds. “All hands on deck” for the shedding of his skin, as directed with cleverly focus by Jenna Worsham, and even though it fizzles a bit at the end, not finding the arc that would lead us emotionally to our core, the clarity inside Sibilly’s eyes connects. “Patsy and the Children of the Lord” by Catya McMullen, as directed by Worsham and performed with a similar set of hypnotic eyes by the marvelously tense Amanda Seyfried (‘Mean Girls‘) tells a purposeful not-so-sobbing story of day #146. It’s centered around twisted journaling on microaggression and the unrelenting attempt to better one’s self. “I am failing” she flatly states as she talks about a historic arc to save the animals around her, but we, collectively, can only respond, “no you are not, Amanda, not in the slightest way”. But the best of the lot is midway through, just after intermission, when the phenomenal Laurie Metcalf (Broadway’s Hillary and Clinton) states with “Only Light” clarity that she is going to get this all done perfectly in one sharply written take by Stephen Karam (Broadway’s The Humans). It’s one of the most clearly constructed homemade pieces within the project that vibrates with authenticity and an epic rendering of the nervous energy of isolation at the heart of this pandemic. It’s the most definitive play of the bunch, and even though it surprises us midway through the presentation most majestically, it nails down everything that is good and true within this ambitious Homebound Project. And for that, I’m just so eternally grateful.
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 streamed July 15-19, and the fifth and final is streaming now Aug 5-9. Tickets to the fifth collection are 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.
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.
The fourth edition of The Homebound Project was available July 15–19, 2020 (you can read about it by clicking here), and featured Tommy Dorfman in a work by Diana Oh, directed by Lena Dunham; Lisa Edelstein in a work by Janine Nabers; Adam Faison in a work by Charly Evon Simpson; Santino Fontana in a work by Emily Zemba; Cherry Jones in a work by Erin Courtney, directed by Jenna Worsham; Sue Jean Kim in a work by Leslye Headland, directed by Annie Tippe; Judith Light in a work by Jon Robin Baitz, directed by Leigh Silverman; Jon-Michael Reese in a work by Harrison David Rivers, directed by Colette Robert; Amber Tamblyn in a work by Halley Feiffer; Marquise Vilson in a work by Migdalia Cruz, directed by Cándido Tirado; Mary Wiseman in a work by Boo Killebrew, directed by Jenna Worsham. As well as special appearances by U.S. Army veteran Teaira ‘T-bone’ Johnson, playwright Diana Oh, and actors Phillipa Soo and Amanda Seyfried.
Visit homeboundtheater.org and follow @homeboundtheater on Instagram 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.
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