SATE presents Project Verse: Creativity in the Time of Quarantine  
in collaboration with COCA and Prison Performing Arts,  Featuring two new plays —  Quatrains in Quarantine by e.k. doolin and Dream On, Black Girl: Reflections in Quarantine by Maxine du Maine  Premiering online Aug. 28, 2020 at 7 p.m.(CST) Presented free of charge on SATE’s website (slightlyoff.org), Facebook page (facebook.com/satestl), Instagram @satestl. 

Maxine du Maine

 SATE presents the culminating week of Project Verse, a three-week collaboration with COCA and Prison Performing Arts (PPA) as education and engagement partners. COCA presented the artist talks on their Facebook page to celebrate the creativity of those who are caregivers and artists.

Artist talks included poetry with jessica Care moore and King Thomas Moore on August 12 and visual arts with Maxine du Maine on August 19. The final week’s offering on August 26 was dance and poetry with Delaney Piggins and Norah Brozio.  Quatrains in Quarantine was written by e.k. doolin in response to a call for scripts based in the Zoom platform. The call was issued by COCA (Center of Creative Arts).

The COCAwrites program seeks to produce works that are intended for a multi-generational audience. Cara is a young poet, trying to process the unprecedented time she is living through in the best way she knows how – her verse. Nicole is her mother, trying to survive another day of uncertainty and working/parenting simultaneously from home. Mimi is her friend, seemingly winning at all things. JJ is her brother, absent in more ways than one. 

Quatrains in Quarantine is directed by Ellie Schwetye and features Rachel Tibbetts and Clayton High School students Claudia Taylor, Anna Lawrence, and Tommy Karandjeff.  Dream On, Black Girl: Reflections in Quarantine, written and directed by Maxine du Maine, focuses on a writing teacher guiding two young ladies through a poetry class on Zoom.

Both students share poems that reflect on the tragedies that continue to plague their community during the quarantine. The poems in the play are inspired by the young black children that were quarantined before COVID-19. They spent their time in a juvenile detention center reflecting on their lives, experiences and emotions through powerful art and writing.  Young black youth are tomorrow’s leaders and deserve a platform to represent themselves accurately in the media and have their voice heard. 

Dream On, Black Girl: Reflections in Quarantine is their platform. The performing ensemble includes Maxine du Maine, Gabby Eubanks, and Alana Wilson. 


 Please call (314) 827-5760, email [email protected], or visit the SATE website at slightlyoff.org for more information.  Project Verse is made possible by funding from COCA, Prison Performing Arts, Regional Arts Commission, and SATE.

By Lynn Venhaus

Several visionary local artists proved that fortune does favor the bold through their efforts to present a gift to a theater-starved community.

This precious lifeline was “Mute: A Play for Zoom” on Sunday, April 5. We experienced an original 5-person 30-minute play on the internet with a hundred other people that Sunday night, boldly going where no one had gone before.

This absurdist apocalyptic academic farce was a burst of creativity and a jolt of connectivity like the sun coming out on a cloudy day.

A maiden voyage by playwright Nancy Bell, director Lucy Cashion and production manager Spencer Lawton explored our strange new world of making art during a quarantine. It starts out as a video conference call among colleagues at a university. For these academics, there is confusion, and eventually fire – and a hamster.

A recording of last week’s live Zoom performance was shown during a Facebook Watch Party April 12. It is now on Vimeo for all to see: https://vimeo.com/405178212?fbclid=IwAR2hkRVBGu78QK8rLQWmb6pY-e7fynRixVlGxky1vvhWNxyN3kKY8PrCP0s

How it all came together was truly remarkable — ignited a spark, a surge of energy that took us out of our stay-at-home melancholia and made us appreciate authentic art and true talent.

It was like I was on a new adventure without leaving my couch.

The five-person cast included several lauded veterans and standout newcomers as colleagues. St. Louis Theater Circle Award winners Michelle Hand (a very nervous Maria), Michael James Reed (agitated Trent), Keating (trying to hang on Fiona) and Sophia Brown (mysterious Lila and Man Ray) performed with their customary immersion into character as well as Delaney Piggins, so good at New Jewish Theatre’s “I Now Pronounce,” as confused Heather and Jakob Hulten as assistant Dustin trying to herd the cats and keep normalcy.

They all connected in a believable way, providing distinctive portraits in a very short amount of time as what the new normal is quickly erodes into a disturbing situation. Reed mastered delivery of a barrage of new vocabulary among his monologues, unleashing a torrent of new words among his distain for the circumstances. He did it with a complete command of the twisty dialogue.

Worried about technical difficulties, it actually went off without a hitch, and ended abruptly according the script. Just be patient. Zoom is a terrific tool for bringing us all together, and the technical gurus behind this production did a fantastic job.

I have always been grateful we have the brilliance of Nancy Bell as a playwright and an actress and the visionary viewpoint of Lucy Cashion, who is never deterred by convention or obstacles, and noticed them right away as I began reviewing more regional professional theater in 2012.

And “Mute: A Play for Zoom” confirms how lucky we are to have them producing art in St. Louis.

This is just a thrilling testament to the possibilities of how to create art in unconventional ways under difficult circumstances.

While this view is indeed apocalyptic, the way it was executed was also life-affirming and uplifting in a bracing way – and to be able to appreciate how we can still connect through storytelling was indeed a lovely surprise gift.

Bravo to everyone involved.

Here is what the cast bios said on their event page:

CAST

Delaney Piggins [Heather] is a St. Louis Actor/Playwright/Producer, who is excited to do her first “pants optional” play.

Jakob Hultén [Dustin] is a SLU senior graduating with a BA in Theatre and History.

Michelle Hand [Maria] is an STL born and bred professional actor who, in her twenty years at work, has never quite done something like this.

Sophia Brown [Lila/Man Ray] is thrilled to be joining Mute! She is a local theatre artist, most recently seen with the Imaginary Theatre Company.

Keating [Fiona] is a kick-ass theatre artist who is madly in love with STL, co-artistic director of Poor Monsters.

Michael James Reed [Trent] used to enjoy doing a play or two. He now spends good portions of his day in a cardigan and Crocks.

They took a risk and it paid off.

Note: MUTE: A play for Zoom WATCH PARTY this Sunday, APRIL 12th at 7PM. DETAILS TBA. https://facebook.com/events/s/mute-a-play-for-zoom-watch-par/159436718663052/?ti=icl

Join us for the watch party!!! Here’s the page where you can get all the details coming soon.