Proving its commitment to new work that reflects the unique qualities of our region, Pinky Swear Productions recently invited six playwrights to write short plays to be performed in the tiny houses of D.C.’s Boneyard Studios. Located across the street from a cemetery on Evarts Street in Northeast, DC, the track of land currently holds three houses ranging in size from 140 - 210 square feet. The playwrights’ work will be performed simultaneously in and around these small homes from September 27 through October 12.
After an initial visit to the site, the playwrights—Thembi Duncan, Danielle Mohlman, Donna Rachelle, Laura Zam, and siblings Ann and Shawn Fraistat—wrote their short plays. Returning together a week later, they listened to the newly written work. Rachelle was amazed at how the pieces worked well together and how the “playwright's voice contributed to the big picture.” Ann Fraistat also commented on the synergy of the work, saying, “[It was] as if they naturally belonged together from the outset. Thematically, they touched on death, love, cycles, and hope. Tonally, they already read like arcing scenes from the same big play.” The effect of hearing the work together, she added “was one of those magic theatre moments for me, when a group of people can come together and experience this kind of organic mind-meld.”
Each Tiny House play has a style reflective of the author and its own cast. Yet they all take place at the same time, on a loop that allows audiences to see the entire range of work. The characters, like the owners of the Boneyard Studio houses, have embraced the Tiny House movement, which has grown internationally in the decade following the recession. People who are looking to own a home without a mortgage, simplify their lives and live sustainably, are increasingly drawn to creating micro-homes. The movement was profoundly inspiring for the writers. “It’s fascinating,” Laura Zam told me, “and the houses themselves are ingenious.”
One notable quality of the three houses is their unique approach to solving spatial challenges and utility issues. Danielle Mohlman’s contribution focuses on the tensions of small space life. The Minim House, where her piece takes place, “is not a lot of room – especially if you choose to share that space with someone else,” she said. “They’re dealing with both the interpersonal implications of sharing a space and the legal implications of living in this house.” District law restricts residency in a micro home, so as Mohlman explains “This couple is living together, but not.”
Ann and Shawn Fraistat were influenced by a different aspect of the space. “Death is inescapably present in the space,” said Shawn. “The personification of Death puts in an appearance.” Ann added, “The Grim Reaper character plays his own theme music...It’s completely absurd.” While the Fraistats approached a serious topic with an absurdist touch, Thembi Duncan decided to use her piece to investigate the relationship between a black and white woman. These types of relationships, Duncan explained, “are rarely examined in depth. When they are, it’s often as the backdrop of a larger story.”
Just like a group of little homes on a single plot of land, the Tiny House Plays are something massive and something really modest. And, according to the project’s director Jessica Aimone, “The end product is exactly what I had hoped for: five stories about one tiny place, each as unique as the individuals who live there.”
The Tiny House Plays are performed on Saturdays and Sundays at 1, 3, 6 and 8 p.m., from September 27 through October 12. Click here for more information.