What does it look like when five major theaters come together to commission a slew of ultra-short plays meant to only ever be performed at home? To find out, the Public Theater joined forces with Baltimore Center Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company to launch the new venture “Play at Home,” a series of “micro-commissioned short plays.”
The works — which all clock-in under 10 minutes — will be available for free on the initiative’s website, where participants at home can download the scripts and stage the commissions from home. The theaters encourage play-makers to share their creations on social media with the hashtag #PlayAtHome. All of the pieces commissioned by the project are conceived under the assumption that they will not be produced in a theater.
“Even as theaters have closed to protect the public, the community that makes theatre possible remains open for storytelling,” Artistic Directors Stephanie Ybarra, Jacob G. Padrón, Oskar Eustis, Hana Sharif and Maria Manuela Goyanes said in a joint statement. “We’re proud to have found a way to support our storytellers during this time of great uncertainty clouding the future of theatre, and we’re excited for audiences to read and perform these plays as they bring them to life with their families — in their own homes. We hope that theaters across the country will be inspired to join with us to continue to expand this list and bring more voices to the table.”
The inaugural batch of commissions debuted Wednesday, filling the website with 27 scripts. Each play is accompanied by a logline briefly describing the work and the suggested amount of “humans” needed to perform.
Among the playwrights included in the first round is Michael R. Jackson, whose musical “A Strange Loop” took Playwrights Horizons’ mainstage theater by storm last year. Titled “Trees on Broadway,” Jackson’s play follows a young tree that must contend with success on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Other writers (chosen individually by the five theaters) include Jaclyn Backhaus (“Men on Boats”), Ricardo Pérez González (“On the Grounds of Belonging”), Mona Mansour (“The Vagrant Trilogy”) and Karen Zacarías (“Native Gardens”), among others.
According to the “Play at Home” website, one goal of the initiative was to pay artists. (The website lists the rate as $500 per commission.)
“Freelance artists are among the folks hit hardest by COVID-19 closures. We want to support them in doing what they do best — creating,” the website reads. “While we would love to be able to include anyone and everyone, right now, we’re just five theaters — we’re actively seeking more partner theaters and individuals to jump in and force-multiply.”
More information about the project, including how to get involved, can be found here.