Women-led online production to honor cast, supporters

A one-night only performance on July 27 by Unboxed Productions also will benefit a nonprofit that helps women and children.

Dee Collier [Supplied]

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted July 25, 2023 | By Julie Garisto

One decision can change the course of history and the lives of families across the nation.

“Unboxing in Biloxi,” to be presented online on July 27 by locally headquartered Unboxed Productions (UP), centers on a family from Biloxi, Mississippi, who relocated there from Ohio in the 1980s. The play is set against the political backdrop of 2018’s U.S. Supreme Court hearings and the lead character, Karen, finds her world turned upside down by a fateful ruling. 

Local actor Dee Collier is the only actor to have played the comedic character of Carol in every UP production of the play so far.

“Dee will be honored during the Thursday, July 27, production at 4 p.m., as well as Mia Munn, a resident of North Carolina who discovered UP and has been to every single online production, since UP was founded the summer of 2020 as a way to keep the theater open and viable during the pandemic,” explained Unboxed Productions co-founder and artistic director Kim Lynette Sandstrom.

In all, more than 50 actors and crew have performed in “Unboxing in Biloxi” (which originally was titled “Unboxing in Atlanta”) since the world premiere at CF in 2019, including locals Laurie Zink, Brittany Vasser, Susan Moring, June Benoit, Jessica Matthews, Rhonda Woodard, Teri Schwartz, Rita Singer, Laila Fakhoury and Collier. Originally directed by Sandstrom, all other online versions have been directed by UP co-founder Jan Thomas, from Indianapolis. All cast and crew have been invited back for this one-night event to see how the play grew and to join in a coast-to-coast cast party fundraiser. 

UP has produced more than a dozen live, online only, shows since its founding and has had hundreds of audience members log on. The production of “Tea at Five,” the Katharine Hepburn story, starring Marty Van Kleek of Dallas, broke the group’s box office record and UP will be offered again in September as a live online-only production. Other UP plays include “Erma Bombeck,” “Tea for Three” and “How We Faced the Horsemen.”

UP is a nationwide, women-led effort, and the theater company has worked overtime promoting women-produced and women-focused productions. Marketing is handled by Sandstrom, who co-founded the company with director Thomas at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and has continued producing shows online for theater lovers who prefer not to go to a brick-and-mortar theater. Local actor and UP board member Rita Singer, and board members Teri Schwartz of Ocala and Lee Tilson of Detroit, also lend support.

“This is also a reunion of all the actors who have played a role in ‘Unboxing in Biloxi’ or our original title ‘Unboxing in Atlanta,’ said Sandstrom of the July 27 event. “We have special guests April McDonald of Project Hope, Dee Collier and a few other surprise guests.”

McDonald, director of Ocala’s Project Hope, a nonprofit that helps shepherd homeless women and their children to self-sufficiency, was in the audience for the live production in October and said she was so moved she had some of the women of Project Hope also watch the show. The nonprofit leader has been invited back to speak during a talk back at the end of the live reveal of the video and 10 percent of the evening’s fundraising for UP will go to Project Hope. 

The online theater opens 30 minutes before the event. All audience members are invited to stay for a “cast party” following the show to hear McDonald speak of the work she is doing locally to help vulnerable women and children. 

A donation of any amount will secure access to the event and a link will be emailed 24 hours before the show. 

Go to unboxed.productions to make a donation. For more information, email kimlynette@aol.com or call (352) 875-5484. 

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