The Coalescence Theater Project is a new institution in the Twin Cities with some stalwart names attached.
Don Shandrow of New Route Theater and Director Joe McDonnell along with the Prairie Pride Coalition are putting on a play called "The Dying Breed" at the Normal Theater on Sept. 8-9.
McDonnell said the project focuses on theater of underserved groups: people of color, women, LGBTQ people, plays about, plays by, and plays for people who aren't served as much by what's out there.
"Coalescence, meaning things coming together and jelling. That's our basic idea is that we're trying to bring these people together that are creative and out there and not being allowed to be as much a part of the rest of theater," said McDonnell.
The play has been produced once or twice before. Ianne Fields Stewart wrote it when they were 17 years old and submitted it several years ago for the New Routes Theater festival. McDonnell said it jumped out at him when he was reading a bunch of plays looking for a work for the project.
"It's a five-character play, five people brought together in a social situation in a world where a somewhat fascist group controls when and how women can get pregnant. Women have become servants. Men are more in charge. It somewhat mirrors what's happening in our world right now. That makes it very interesting, very topical," said McDonnell.
The play was written eight years ago, well before the 2016 election and well before the television series "The Handmaid's Tale."
"What it's most about is human relationships. That's what I liked about it is how we as people relate to each other in the hardest of circumstances," said McDonnell.
The main character, around which everything centers, happens to be pregnant. She is not pregnant with her husband's child, but with the child of her best friend who happens to be a gay man. They are all hiding from the current government because women are not just allowed to be pregnant when they want to. And they are being helped by a Russian woman who used to be a doctor but who is now relegated to the jobs women are allowed to do and she helps them.
"Just their interaction encapsulates so much of what you find with people who are as we all are in our world thrown together. You end up interacting with people who are not the first people you would choose or who are most like you and you have to navigate those murky waters," said McDonnell.
"The Dying Breed" will be performed Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Normal Theater. Stewart is an Illinois Wesleyan University graduate. They will be a guest at a reception Saturday at the University Gallery in between performances.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect Ianne Fields Stewart's preferred pronouns (they/them/their).
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