By Hannah Montgomery, Graduate Writer
It’s like something out of a history book, a pandemic hits, and the theatres closed. But that’s not stopping UNC alumna and playwright Catya McMullen. With the theatres dark, she’s turning her creative energy in a new direction, an online charity helping those affected by COVID-19. McMullen talked to Kim Spurr of the College of Arts & Sciences about this new project.
McMullen and her friend, director Jenna Worsham, created The Homebound Project, an online theatre platform featuring new plays written by homebound playwrights and performed and recorded by sheltering actors.
Proceeds from The Homebound Project’s ticket sales go to No Kid Hungry, a national organization that works to end childhood hunger. With COVID-19, this cause is more urgent than ever. Prior to COVID-19, No Kid Hungry estimated that 11 million children were living in “food insecure” homes; post-pandemic, 18 million children could face hunger this year.
“It’s about feeding kids,” McMullen said, “but it’s also about bringing comfort into people’s homes” McMullen believes the success of The Homebound Project illustrates the power of narrative in binding us all together, especially during these difficult times. “My longtime friend, playwright Lucy Thurber, likes to say that after food and shelter, we need stories — so we know we’re not alone,” McMullen said. “Theater can be on the front line in creating honesty and empathy” she added.
McMullen started her career as a playwright at UNC. She wrote her first full-length play, The Collective, in Bland Simpson’s class, which was produced by the LAB! Theatre during her senior year. In fact, she said that she felt blessed to have Simpson, Marianne Gingher and Pam Durban — whom she calls “the holy trinity” — as creative writing professors.
The Homebound Project’s has two more series of performances planned, set to debut June 3-7 and June 24-28.
The June 3-7 performances are connected by a common theme of “champions,” which McMullen believes is something “we are all craving right now.” The upcoming series will include playwrights such as 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner Michael R. Jackson and Obie Award winner Clare Barron, along with TV, film and theater actors Diane Lane and Blair Underwood, and Phillipa Soo from the original Broadway cast of Hamilton.
Visit http://homeboundtheater.org to see the actors and playwrights who are next on tap. Tickets are available now; when you make a minimum $10 donation to No Child Hungry, you receive a password-protected link to view the performances, beginning at 7 p.m. June 3. (Frontline and essential workers receive complimentary tickets.)