Student-led theatre fields short plays about pre-COVID living

Only submissions not involving the coronavirus were allowed.

Sarah Mai

Sarah Mai

by Meg Bishop

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, it’s hard not to get nostalgic about the way things were just a few months ago. University of Minnesota students Mac Scheldt and Katelyn McLane of Little Red Theatre Company came together to create the project “Tiny Plays from Quarantine”, which aims to remind people of a time before the pandemic. The project’s final collection will hold 25 short plays about stories from life before quarantine. 

“The things we think about when we are given the time to think about them,” said McLane about the project’s artistic statement. 

Tiny Plays from Quarantine started in the hopes that people could take their minds off COVID-19 and focus on positive memories and stories from before the coronavirus. Only submissions not involving the coronavirus were allowed, and plays were limited to 600 words.

The theatre was planning to help direct Minnesota’s Fringe Festival 2020 this year, but the festival was canceled due to the coronavirus. 

“We want to help everyone in theatre, give people an outlet,” said Scheldt.

Little Red Theatre Company is completely student-run and was started back in 2019 by Scheldt. When the pandemic made it impossible to participate in productions year-round, Scheldt recruited friends to join the theatre company.

Scheldt and McLane found inspiration for the Tiny Plays project from their study abroad trip to Ireland, which was cut short due to the coronavirus. While studying there, the pair came across a project called Tiny Plays for Ireland and America, which sparked their idea for Little Red Theatre Company to take on the same type of project. 

More than 100 tiny plays were submitted. Submissions for Tiny Plays from Quarantine rolled in from five different countries. The theatre never intended to have different countries participate, thinking only people within the Midwest would hear about the project.

“We turned the theatre’s Tiny Plays Facebook and Instagram posts into ads and somehow those blew up,” said McLane. 

Shortly after finding out that playwrights from other countries including the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia were submitting, the Tiny Plays from Quarantine Map was built on the theatre company’s website. The map highlights which states and countries participated in the project.

Many recurring themes popped up within the play’s submissions — friendships, simple moments, romantic relationships and “a lot of kissing,” said Scheldt. 

Scheldt and McLane have the duty of going through all 100 submissions to find the 25 keepers for the collection. Submissions came from playwrights of all age ranges and backgrounds. 

“90% of the plays have a lot of satire,” said Scheldt. “Humor will thread the varying themes together.”

The theatre has plans to expand Tiny Plays from Quarantine into a larger project. “We hope that we can find actors to perform it virtually, or possibly live,” said McLane.

Little Red Theatre Company plans to publish the collection in June.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of countries play submissions had been received from. Tiny Plays from Quarantine received submissions from five countries and 20 states. The article also misquoted Katelyn McLane.