Editor’s note: And earlier version of this article posted online misspelled Sheila Cowley’s name. The Gabber apologizes for the error.
What happens when you combine one great idea, three original scripts, nine professional actors, and a willing venue host? A series of five-minute bedtime plays for kids and stressed-out grownups who could use a laugh.
“I got tired of seeing this article go around about how theatre only works because of intimate, in-person connections between actors and audience, saying people shouldn’t make theatre now when everybody’s isolated,” said Sheila Cowley, a local playwright and audio producer. “I can’t wait around for things to change so I thought, ‘How can we make live theatre now when everybody’s safe at home?’”
Cowley approached Bob Devin Jones, the artistic director at The Studio@620, to see if the venue would like to host the plays and he agreed. She wrote a series of five-minute telephone plays and recruited actors in the area who were longing to get back to work. The ensemble consists of professional stage, film and television actors based in the Tampa Bay area, most of whom do voice work or are part of the live Radio Theatre Project at TheStudio@620. Performances are directed by Jim Rayfield, a retired theatre teacher from Howard W. Blake High School in Tampa, a public magnet school with an emphasis on the arts. And Tiny Bedtime Plays for Kids and the Stressed Out was created.
The plays are aimed for elementary school-aged kids but Cowley says they are fun for everyone. One play is performed each night at 7:45 p.m., just in time for bedtime or a cheerful moment of community to start the evening. Listeners can visit The Studio@620 website: (thestudioat620.org/events/tiny-bedtime-plays-for-kids-and-the-stressed-out), donate any amount via PayPal, and receive a conference call number to dial into at 7:45 p.m. on school nights, Monday through Thursday, beginning May 17. Listeners can laugh, clap, and talk to the performers after the show. Plays and casts are rotated each night so it’s a different experience each time. The conference call number has also been shared with Pinellas County elementary schools so that any child can dial in and hear a bedtime play at no cost.
Donations ensure that the professional actors and directors who are out of work at this time will be paid for their performances. The plays will run through June 4. For more information, go to Tiny Bedroom Plays on Facebook.
“I think it’s true that theatre is based on human connection, and everybody feels lost and cut off right now. But there are all kinds of ways to connect and stay creative,” said Cowley. “And I hope these plays give everyone who listens a laugh, a bit of hope and the feeling that we’re all listening to this story together.”
(Featured image from Studio @620 poster Tiny Bedroom Plays for Kids and the Stressed Out)
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