On August 29, Mustard Seed Theatre will open its ninth performance season at Fontbonne University with four shows, three of which are world premieres and one a reprise of an a cappella musical that played to sold-out audiences in 2013. The new season also means a new floor at Mustard Seed’s Fine Arts Theatre at Fontbonne, thanks to the Arts and Education Council’s power2give.org program. This online marketplace allows cultural organizations to post and promote projects in need of funding; then donors can contribute directly to the projects that interest them.
“We were able to combine funding from a previous grant with the contributions from power2give.org to fund the pouring of a new epoxy floor in our theater,” explained Deanna Jent, artistic director of Mustard Seed. “This new floor will create a zero entry from the theater lobby to the stage floor, correcting a tripping hazard that’s been in existence for years. The funds from power2give.org made it possible to make our theater more accessible to those unsteady on their feet and/or on wheels. This project wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of the Arts and Education Council in launching power2give.org.”
Recently, Happenings sat down with Jent to discuss her burgeoning theater company.
Why did you decide to start Mustard Seed?
I had been doing freelance work at many of the great theaters around town. I would run across scripts I wanted to direct and propose them to various professional theaters but they weren’t a good fit. So over the course of three or four years, I developed a pile of eight to 10 scripts but either the casts were too large or just not quite right for the other theaters in town.
Weren’t you also teaching at Fontbonne?
This will be my 19th year; I am the director of the theater program. So while I was freelance directing and building up this pile of scripts, I was also, with my professor hat on, placing students in professional internships around town, which were sometimes wonderful and plentiful and other times not. I had this need/frustration about finding a place where my students could get professional experience. So that’s how the idea of developing a
professional theater-in-residence at the university came about. Mustard Seed is built on the mission of doing theater around themes of social justice and faith. How did that occur? A couple of friends and I read through that pile of scripts and we realized they all centered on issues of faith and social justice or both. Given the mission of, which is very much centered on questions of faith and social justice, it seemed to all come together.
What are you most excited about in Mustard Seed’s upcoming season?
I’m excited that we are doing three new plays, two by St. Louis playwrights. One looks at the relationship between a female American Army consultant and an Iraqi woman during war. The other, “White to Gray,” focuses on the day before the Pearl Harbor bombings. Our last new play is a hilarious, futuristic comedy of manners where all the characters live in a virtual reality.
Mustard Seed Theatre is an Arts and Education Council 2014 PNC Project Grant recipient. Click here to learn more about Mustard Seed Theatre.