The FPI Files: Towne Street Theatre Explores Life As We Know It… Now

By Desireé York

Feeling alone, either literally as a result of this quarantine, or in dealing with the unforeseen challenges of life during a pandemic?  Towne Street Theatre, LA’s premiere African-American Theatre Company, will meet you wherever you are with their presentation of Corona and Other Maladies.  Experience the virtual performances of six short plays on Saturday, August 15th at 7PM and Sunday, August 16th at 4PM coming to you LIVE from the sets/homes of over a dozen entertainers attempting to navigate this bizarre time just like you!  This event includes 4 plays by women+ writers, all directed by Nancy Cheryll Davis, Towne Street Theatre’s Artistic Director.  I had the privilege of connecting with Nancy to learn more about this event.

LAFPI: What inspired this event and what makes it unique from other Zoom readings?

Nancy Cheryll Davis

Nancy Cheryll Davis: We had just started our 10 minute Play Festival rehearsals when the pandemic hit, and it became clear that we were not going to be able to return to live theatre anytime soon. After doing our first Zoom event with our Spoken Word program, Sum Poetry, I realized how much people wanted to stay connected. I also realized how important it was for all of us, Company and Audience, to do so.  

In May I came up with the title, Corona & Other Maladies, and asked our writers if they had, or could come up with, some short plays about living through this moment.  We were originally going to do it in June, but after the deaths of Ahmad Aubrey, George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, I decided to postpone our programming and take a much needed pause to reflect on what was happening in our communities across the country.

We really worked on having some movement and semblance of the reality of each piece through the actors’ own home backgrounds.  We used a few virtual ones and rehearsed everything just like we would in real time. 

“Zoombies” by Madeline Puccioni, with Justin Gurbersky, Daphne Jones and Colette Rosario

LAFPI: What did you find the most fun and the most challenging not only directing all six plays, but in this specific format?

Nancy: Towne Street is fortunate to have incredibly talented writers and actors. Each script was so good! The beauty of having a company is that I know the members so well and what they really shine in. It was fun to cast each piece knowing they would all bring their special skills to their roles.  Our production team is also incredibly talented and has fearlessly delved into this unknown world with me. We have all commented on the fact that although we are not doing live theatre, we are still able to practice our craft be it writing, acting, designing or directing, with this platform. 

Directing these plays was like playing in a sandbox for me. The biggest challenge of course is the bandwidth each actor has or doesn’t have, on any given day, and the lack of control over that issue.

LAFPI: How do you feel that these plays “meet” audiences wherever they are and what would you like them to take away from the experience?

“Coming To You Live” by Laurie Allen, with Andrew Cudzilo and Samantha Clay

Nancy: The plays explore so many of the experiences that people are having now. They are beautifully written and acted and despite the title, rather lighthearted. 

I always think finding some joy and laughter in the midst of chaos is critical to the human spirit. I hope for the time they spend with us on either Saturday or Sunday, that they are able to relax for a little bit and just have a good time.  We are having an “After Party” following the performances, and I look forward to sharing some conversation and drinks with all!

For more information and to tune into the live Zoom event visit: tstcorona.eventbrite.com.  To learn more about the work of Town Street Theatre, visit www.townestreetla.org or follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Know a female or FPI-friendly theater, company or artist? Contact us at lafpi.updates@gmail.com & check out The FPI Files for more stories. 

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Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non‐profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of LAFPI must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax‐deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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