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'Bronte Sister House Party,' a play without a plot, is comically nontraditional

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Bronte Sister House Party

From left: Michael Cassidy Flynn, Rachel Tibbetts, Joel Moses and Maggie Conroy star in "Bronte Sister House Party." 

As literary siblings go, it would be difficult to cite three with more impressive credentials than Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte.

Charlotte’s “Jane Eyre” and Emily’s “Wuthering Heights” are inarguably timeless classics. And if Anne’s “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” isn’t as well known, in its time — the 19th century — it was nonetheless quite a success.

But what would it have been like to spend time with those gifted British sisters? Or to be more specific, what kind of party might they have thrown?

Perhaps it would have been something like the get-together depicted in playwright Courtney Bailey’s “Bronte Sister House Party,” running through Aug. 27 in a SATE production directed by Keating. The comic play was presented in March by the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival as a staged reading.

Like quite a few artistic works these days, “Bronte Sister House Party” is a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bailey says.

“I got the idea for this play because I spent so much of the pandemic in my own home, feeling very isolated,” she says. “And feeling this pressure to make use of all of the time that the pandemic gave us. It felt like every day of the lockdown phase was the same thing, over and over and over again.”

Courtney Bailey

Playwright Courtney Bailey's "Bronte Sister House Party" is running through Aug. 27 in a SATE production. 

That experience inspired Bailey to write a play that “tapped into that tyranny of repetition. Something that explored how we can still be creative in the midst of repetition.”

And the Bronte sisters struck her as ideal for such a scenario. The three, she says, “had these hugely imaginative lives — and this very imaginative literary output. And yet they lived very quiet lives, and it’s interesting to think of those types of individuals having a party. Or being compelled to host a house party.”

“Bronte Sister House Party” is “definitely a nontraditional play,” Bailey says.

“It doesn’t have a plot,” she says. “Instead, it’s leaning into this idea of a play as an event. A play as a party. A party doesn’t necessarily have a plot.

“A party is a series of interesting happenings that occur over the course of an evening. And I want people to feel like their two hours spent at our ‘House Party’ is a joyful time.”

Shouldn’t the title be “Bronte Sisters House Party,” with an added “s”? Perhaps a stickler for language would insist on it, but Bailey says she just likes the way “Bronte Sister” sounds.

“I know it’s maybe not grammatically correct,” she says.

What “Bronte Sister House Party” • When 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 17-27 • Where The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive • How much $20-$25 • More info

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