Avant Bard unveils groundbreaking film project: ‘Homeless Garden’

Audiences will have the unique opportunity to witness and engage in the of filming of a reinterpretation of 'The Cherry Orchard.'

Avant Bard is excited to introduce a groundbreaking project to conclude its season: the open filming of Homeless Garden. Audiences will have the unique opportunity to witness and engage in an evening of filming, followed by an exclusive preview of the final product before its official release.

Written by Matt Minnicino, Homeless Garden was originally planned for a theatrical staging as part of Avant Bard’s 2023/24 season finale. However, due to unforeseen staffing challenges, this became unfeasible. Director Kathleen Akerley, instead of canceling the production, proposed creating a film adaptation of the play, weaving it into a larger cinematic narrative that explores the current challenges facing American theater.

Homeless Garden, a reinterpretation of The Cherry Orchard, delves into themes of scarcity mindset, conflicting interests in land use, and the ability (or inability) of leadership to acknowledge its own shortcomings and, if necessary, step aside,” shared Akerley. “This resonates deeply with the post-pandemic and post–We See You White American Theater landscape.”

Akerley’s vision for a documentary highlighting the struggle to bring Minnicino’s story to life under financial constraints while reflecting on Avant Bard’s own history and leadership was enthusiastically embraced by the Avant Bard leadership. “This project embodies Avant Bard’s mission—to provoke thought, challenge norms, and reflect the complexities of our world. Homeless Garden not only reimagines a classic work but also serves as a mirror to our current reality, highlighting the profound parallels between the play’s themes and the challenges facing contemporary theater,” stated Producing Partner Alyssa Sanders. “Sara [Barker] and I are proud to support Kathleen’s vision, which not only brings Minnicino’s story to life but also invites us to reflect on our own journey, recognizing that true leadership often requires the courage to confront our shortcomings and make way for new growth.”

Playwright Minnicino wholeheartedly agreed, acknowledging that the theater world is undergoing a “tectonic shift.” “To be able to take the challenges of creating theater and convert them into a genuine, compelling meta-commentary on how we create and who is creating—it’s an absolute thrill to me,” shared Minnicino. “I think Kathleen and Avant Bard’s intriguing innovation is bristling, bold, and perfectly Chekhovian—Chekhov who always wrestled the sadness and confusion of change into stories about people and the place in the world they share.”

The shift in this project puts Akerley in familiar territory. She directed her first film, the feature Something Past in Front of the Light, in 2014 (Semi-Finalist, Director’s Cut Int’l Film Festival), and has directed and/or co-produced several shorts, including The Infection (Official Selection, Portland Film Festival), Doors of Impression, and She Speaks to the Trees (Official Selection, Canada Shorts). Her experimental film Silence on the Road is in post-production.

The audience’s experience of witnessing the film’s creation will be markedly different from a traditional stage production. To maintain coherence, the filmings will coincide with the original showtimes from the initial schedule. However, each evening will not be a mere “performance” of Homeless Garden, as only five pages of the script will be covered, ensuring that no two audiences witness the same material.

Throughout the filming, audiences can expect to see scenes captured from multiple perspectives, potentially with significant changes in interpretation based on feedback. The evenings will also feature filmed Q&A sessions with the audience and communal engagement among all participants—including the director, actors, audience, and crew—around the themes raised by the material. Audience members will be active participants in shaping the documentary, spending a total of 90 minutes in the space.

Homeless Garden filmings will take place from May 2 to 25, 2024 (Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.), produced by Avant Bard Theatre at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two, 2700 South Lang Street, Arlington, VA. Purchase tickets online.

As part of a commitment to making art available to all, Avant Bard offers pay-what-you-can tickets at Saturday matinees, complimentary tickets to all Arlington middle and high school students, and half-price tickets for their parents/guardians, and offers two “Mask Required” filmings: Saturday, May 18, 2 p.m. and Sunday, May 19 at 2 p.m.

Avant Bard produces thought-provoking theater. Avant Bard dedicates itself to productions of classic works—both time-tested and contemporary—that take provocative, bold approaches in intimate settings. Since 1990, Avant Bard has delivered high-quality, diverse, and accessible art to the Washington, DC, region. Avant Bard is committed to talent development, equity, inclusion, and programmatic excellence. Learn more at avantbard.org.


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