You Can Unmute
New Comedy Drama Explores Big Issues and Female Friendship
For some artists, the pandemic has offered an opportunity for a reset. For Jessica Chipman, a theatre student in the University of Idaho Master of Fine Arts distance program, the pandemic provided an opportunity to reexamine her dual love for directing and playwriting. Which is our good fortune because the award-winning high school theatre teacher, director, playwright, podcaster, mother and wife found time to write a new comedic drama, “You Can Unmute” debuting as a livestream reading, July 9-11.
“Sex and the City” Meets “White Privilege”
A combination of “Sex and the City” meets “White Privilege,” “You Can Unmute” brings us into the busy lives of three former college roommates, reconnecting on a wine-soaked Zoom call. Their conversation glows with gossip, memories of old flings and debauched parties. As the past is dredged, secrets are revealed and traumas exposed. A play about long-time friendship, complicity, and what is left unsaid, “You Can Unmute” confronts contemporary issues and asks the question, “what do we do?”
What began as a writing project for a U of I theatre class taught by Theatre Arts Chair Robert Caisley is anchored in the summer of 2020. At that time Chipman was awarded Lake Region Arts Council’s Individual Legacy Grant to write a play designed for virtual performance. Chipman drafted the script while the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and the #MeToo movement raged on. “The activism was inspiring,” said Chipman who lives in Alexandria, Minnesota, two hours northwest of Minneapolis.
MFA Program Offers Supportive Environment
Informal readings and input from classmates, actors and directors helped to solidify the story, Chipman said. The U of I MFA program also reignited her love for theatre. “I loved the collegiality in the courses I took,” Chipman said. “I found that love again, and then some, through learning from students and professors alike in a supportive and enriching environment,” she said.
The cast features U of I professor and head of acting, Kelly Quinnett; Jennifer Hughes, a U of I Master of Fine Arts theatre candidate from Ogden, Utah; and Saffron Henke of Fort Collins, Colorado.
“I’m overwhelmed by the talent of the whole team,” Chipman said.
Designed for Virtual Performances
While “You Can Unmute” was purposely designed for virtual performance, Chipman has 11 other plays to her credit that have been produced across North America. She co-founded Dynamo Creative, a female-led theatre company committed to amplifying the stories of women and has directed over thirty-five productions for educational theatre programs and community theater.