Pipeline-Collective Presents 12-Hour Theatrical Event - OUTSIDE OF HERE - Saturday, October 2

World Premiere of Claudia Barnett's New Play Stars Who's Who of Nashville Theater

By: Sep. 28, 2021

Pipeline-Collective Presents 12-Hour Theatrical Event - OUTSIDE OF HERE - Saturday, October 2

After more than 18 months of a pandemic-borne shutdown, live theater seems to be making a comeback around the world, with stage lights coming back on in darkened theaters and artists once again creating new works for audiences clamoring for entertainment and enlightenment. For David Ian Lee and Karen Sternberg, co-founders of the Nashville-based Pipeline-Collective, the return to production has meant finding safe passage - creativity that ensures the continued good health for all involved - not only for the actors and other artists with which they collaborate, but for their loyal audiences as well.

The result is Outside of Here - a work that has evolved from conversations among Lee, Sternberg, Melinda Sewak and Claudia Barnett - which will premiere this Saturday, October 2, on NECAT, Nashville's Education, Community and Arts Television Network. For 12 hours, one performer (Sternberg plays "Her") will experience one story dozens of times with more than 30 different actors, who comprise a veritable who's who of Nashville's theater community.

It's an intriguing undertaking that brings with it all manner of technical challenges in addition to the customary processes of bringing any show of any kind to life for an audience. While the creative team (Lee and Sewak are co-directors) has plenty of experience doing just that, Outside of Here is something entirely different - and in a cookie-cutter world of theater by rote, where just about every conceivable production has a forebear - and perhaps even unique.

And while they admit the process has been somewhat chaotic at times, they are eager to present their finished product which they hope audiences will find somehow goes beyond the theatrical event planned, to take on a life of its own.

Pipeline-Collective Presents 12-Hour Theatrical Event - OUTSIDE OF HERE - Saturday, October 2
David Ian Lee

"It's been a slow, evolving process," Lee, producing artistic director of Pipeline-Collective, explains during a Zoom interview. "We had been considering long-form performance art inspired by the pandemic - like the work of Marina Abramovic or The Hypocrites, but the real jumping off place was the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day."

Determined to find a new form of creative expression within the parameters of Pipeline-Collective's stated mission of presenting original, guerilla-style theater. At the same time, Pipeline-Collective wanted to build on relationships and virtual storytelling techniques developed via the company's new works program, The Salon.

With the entire world of the past 18+ months akin to something pulled from a movie script, with each day just like the one before or the ones that follow, Lee and Sternberg began to discuss their idea for a new form of performance with playwright Barnett, an English professor at Middle Tennessee State University, who eagerly accepted their challenge of creating a script that somehow captures the spirit of creativity that reverberates even during a global pandemic, while launching an entertainment hybrid to challenge Pipeline Collective's talented pool of collaborators.

In Barnett's Outside of Here (which she admits has seen probably 15 iterations in the lifespan of a play that started with those conversations in early spring) Pipeline-Collective poses the question: What does it mean to return to the world when every day has been the same as the one before?

Pipeline-Collective Presents 12-Hour Theatrical Event - OUTSIDE OF HERE - Saturday, October 2
Claudia Barnett

Barnett's story, according to a press release, is deceptively simple: A woman receives an unexpected guest. When the woman refuses to leave her home, the guest entices her with poignant and joyful visions of the world outside. The departure of one guest leads to the arrival of another - and the scene repeats, with near-imperceptible shifts in text and tone. Yet the play's ritualistic twelve-hour running time demands a rethinking of what it means to belong to a world that is both dangerous and spectacular.

"Karen and David called me in late April and told me they had an idea for a show - a 12-hour show - and they asked me to write it," Barnett remembers. "I was immediately intrigued by the impossibilities, and of course I said yes. The two plays that stayed in my head the whole time I was writing are Samuel Beckett's Endgame, with its characters seemingly trapped at the end of the world [and which includes the line 'Outside of here it's death'], and Eugène Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, with its incessant, nonsensical repetitions.

"And while there are many plays in which one actor plays multiple characters, who ever heard of multiple actors playing one character? That's essentially what we have here. One role, 'Her,' will be played by Karen Sternberg, but the other is a (r)evolving role written for 32 actors. One-character plays are eminently practical. This project is exactly the opposite, which is another reason it appealed to me."

"I've read a bunch of articles that compare the experience of the last year and a half to being in a time loop," Lee says. "You're stuck in one place and every day is the same and nothing you do seems to matter. That's something we wanted to explore."

Pipeline-Collective Presents 12-Hour Theatrical Event - OUTSIDE OF HERE - Saturday, October 2
Melinda Sewak

Subsequently, with the project gaining steam as Barnett worked on her script, Sewak came on board: "David and I sat in my backyard and talked about the project," she recalls. "I had first-hand experience with Pipeline Collective's creative process [she appeared in the company's production of Mac Rogers' God of Obsidian]...so I was thankful to be asked to become involved."

"This piece is a nod to community. It's an acknowledgement of the loss of togetherness we've all experienced in various forms in the recent past, but also a celebration of the life and love that has persisted. With this project, we hope audiences see themselves - and in so doing, feel joy in the diversity of story and experience that theatre, at its best, uplifts."

Outside of Here has been workshopped during the intervening months with Pipeline-Collective collaborators from around the country, Lee says, because the creative team knew they would want the finished product to be performed by actors of the local theater community.

"The past year and a half has been clarifying for Pipeline. The performing arts have, quite simply, been decimated by this pandemic," Sternberg suggests. "We moved The Salon online from the beginning and focused on local and national community-building with playwrights, directors, and actors. It's this community of more than 300 people that inspires us, that pushes us creatively, and that provides us more support than we can ever return. Being able to realize this massive yet safe project with dozens of local performers and technicians after so much time physically apart is deeply gratifying."

One of the project's more significant aspects is the fact that the almost three dozen actors taking part will never rehearse the entire piece together at the same time - instead, they will first come together in the NECAT television studio this weekend.

"That's part of the magic, the unpredictable element," Sternberg admits. "That's where planning and inspiration collide and create something compelling."

Pipeline-Collective Presents 12-Hour Theatrical Event - OUTSIDE OF HERE - Saturday, October 2
Karen Sternberg

Joining Sternberg for the performance will be Rebekah Alexander, Matthew Benenson Cruz, Rona Carter, Joel Diggs, Rosemary Fossee, Galen Fott, Diego Gomez, Denice Hicks, Josh Inocalla, Jonah Jackson, Josh Kiev, David Ian Lee, Ang Madaline-Johnson, Leslie Marberry, Mary McCallum, Kate McGunagle, Nat McIntyre, René Millán, Sabrina Moore, Beth Anne Musiker, Gerold Oliver, Eric Pasto-Crosby, Eve Petty, Taryn Pray, Natalie Rankin, Elliott Robinson, J.R. Robles, Jordan Scott, Melinda Sewak, Tamiko Robinson Steele, Shawn Whitsell, Garris Wimmer and Sarah Zanotti.

Faced with assembling a large cast of actors, the health and safety of all involved has been of paramount concern and Pipeline-Collective has adhered to the latest guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control, the Metro Nashville government and performing artists' unions. As a result, everyone working on Outside of Here will be fully vaccinated and tested, and every person in the building will be masked for the duration of the 12-hour performance unless they're on camera. There will be no live studio audience; Pipeline is limiting access to the space and minimizing the number of people who will be in the space at any given time.

Outside of Here is produced in collaboration with Cameron McCasland, who serves as the Director of Content and Member Relations for NECAT (Nashville Education, Community, and Arts Television). Outside of Here will broadcast live on NECAT's public access channel (Comcast channel 9, ATT U-verse channel 100) from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST on Saturday, October 2. Nationally, viewers can access the livestream via Pipeline-Collective's Facebook page or NECAT's livestream. The performance is free to watch, though donations will be shared among the artists working on the piece.

For more information and to support the production, visit www.pipeline-collective.com.