David Darrow and Cat Brindisi's "Sonnets EP" spotlights theaters and artists' need to create during the pandemic shutdown. /Amy Anderson
"April hath put a spirit of youth in everything," as William Shakespeare said in one of his sonnets -- including, apparently, putting a spirit of youth in theater makers on hiatus from the world of theater.
David Darrow and Cat Brindisi Darrow, former Twin Cities actors now based in New York (but currently hunkered down with Darrow's mom in Pennsylvania), started thinking about non-theater projects when it became clear that theater would have to shutter for an undetermined amount of time. That meant two things: They needed to keep busy and they needed to try to buoy the spirits of the theaters they love. That's where "The Sonnets EP" comes in. The idea is for theater makers around the country to sing songs, the lyrics of which are beloved sonnets.
"I sent an initial email to a couple people we were close to and knew would jump on it early, just folks we knew from working at the Guthrie -- like Erin Mackey -- and other places," said Darrow, who was in the Guthrie's "Sunday in the Park With George" that also featured Brindisi and Mackey, in the lead role of Dot. "As we started posting them, we hoped other people would come out of the woodwork and that's what has happened."
The project was inspired by the idea that Shakespeare wrote many of his beloved poems while he couldn't make theater because of The Plague quarantine. The way it works is someone sends Darrow a sonnet they'd like to do. He writes a musical accompaniment, ranging from bluegrass-inspired to operetta-like, and sends it to them to record vocals on their phones. That vocal comes back to Darrow and he creates a track around it, which is posted on a Soundcloud site.
In just two weeks, "The Sonnet EP" has become an LP, with 11 tracks and more on the way.
"In our dreamland, we were like, 'And all of the sonnets will eventually be done,'" said Brindisi, whose other local appearances include "Sprinig Awakening" at Theater Latté Da. "But we're letting people double up, and it's weird. Three people chose Sonnet 29 ('When in disgrace, with fortune and men's eyes')."
Entries include one from Cat's mom, Chanhassen and Ten Thousand Things actor Michelle Brindisi, who is known professionally as Michelle Barber. Fans of Latté Da's "All Is Calm" get a reunion of some of its cast: Sasha Andreev, Darrow, Ben Dutcher, Ben Johnson and Evan Tyler Wilson on "My Glass Shall Not Persuade Me I Am Old." (They recorded their parts individually, then Darrow assembled them.)
More important than the creative opportunity, said Darrow, is the chance to reflect light at struggling theaters. In addition to Soundcloud, Darrow posts the sonnets on his Facebook page and each artist chooses a venue to honor with their work, encouraging gifts to that theater.
Listeners can enjoy the lovely sonnets for free at the Soundcloud site but the couple hopes listeners will follow up with donations to theaters of their choice. Or, as Darrow put it, "a gesture of appreciation to a theater that really means something to you."