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American Lives Theatre to Open Indianapolis Premiere of SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS


In addition to “Small Mouth Sounds,” American Lives Theatre will be premiering two more plays in Indianapolis in the next few months.

American Lives Theatre to Open Indianapolis Premiere of SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS

Bringing the play "Small Mouth Sounds" by Bess Wohl to Indianapolis audiences is a big win for American Lives Theatre on two fronts. First, the story of six city dwellers seeking respite, clarity, and human connection by way of a meditation retreat is a story that has relevance to anyone who has lived through the last couple years, but isn't in the mood to see a play about COVID. The play was written just prior to the pandemic, but couldn't be more perfect. And secondly, the play, which opens December 2 at The District Theatre, marks the first full-length production for American Lives Theatre (ALT) since the pandemic threated to shut down the new company entirely.

Arts organizations all over Indianapolis grappled with the losses of the pandemic, but the experience of ALT was unique. After blasting onto the Indy theatre scene in January 2020 with Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins' provocative drama "Gloria," the ambitious company dedicated to bringing relevant contemporary drama to Indianapolis audiences was set to open its second offering on March 13, 2020. But just eight hours before the opening performance, that play was postponed, and like so many others, ended up being canceled as the pandemic and closures wore on.

The financial setbacks proved significant for the new company, which had spent nearly a full year fundraising prior to its first season. "We lost thousands of dollars on that second play," said Artistic Director Chris Saunders. "The rights, the space, the set, the costumes, the designers-all of that was paid for. And that would've been devastating enough for a company like us. But we had also used an outside ticketing company, which collected advance ticket revenue on our behalf... And never paid us."

Saunders said the third-party ticketing company had been in business for 20 years, but once ticket sales across the country abruptly halted, it stopped forwarding the ticket sales revenue it had received. To date, ALT has not received anything.

"There were so many unfortunate, random setbacks happening at once," Saunders said. "We considered fundraising again, but that just seemed tone deaf with so much of Indy out of work or worse." The company decided to do what it does best and produce a very small short-play festival during the summer of 2020. This proved a success, which both enabled the company to continue on through those dry months, and it also started a tradition. The second annual Short Play Festival just concluded in Indy in mid-October. It allowed 25 local actors to work on 15 short plays from around the country. But Saunders says ALT is thrilled to be back with a full-length play.

"There simply couldn't be a more perfect play to open with," he said. "It's funny, heartwarming, poignant and unexpected. The premise is six individuals going on a retreat that requires a vow of silence. The playwright, Bess Wohl, is such a unique, fresh voice. Writing a play with that premise is an act of lunacy and utter creativity. It's no wonder it was such a hit in New York."

In addition to "Small Mouth Sounds," American Lives Theatre will be premiering two more plays in Indianapolis in the next few months. "Admissions" by Joshua Harmon at IndyFringe Theatre in January and the Pulitzer Prize winner "Cost of Living" by Martyna Majok at Fonseca Theatre in April.

The cast of "Small Moth Sounds" will be familiar to Indy theatregoers. The six retreaters are played by Kevin Caraher, Nathalie Cruz, Morgan Morton, Lukas Schooler, Zachariah Stonerock and Jenni White. The unseen Teacher is voiced by Ben Rose, and the play is directed by Saunders. The design team includes lighting designer Laura Glover, a set by Kris Steege, sound design by Joe Barsanti and costumes by Molly Vaughn.

"It will be a theatre experience like no other, so I hope people will come check us out," said Saunders.


WHAT: "Small Mouth Sounds"

WHEN: December 2-12, 2021

WHERE: The District Theatre, 627 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis

COST: Tickets are $20 for all seats

COVID-19 SAFETY: Cast and crew are fully vaccinated and audience members will be asked to wear masks.

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