Tracey Conyer Lee stars in “Where We Stand” opening Friday at Portland Stage. The lighted sculptures of artist Pandora LaCasse are used as scenery in the play. Photo by Mical Hutson, courtesy of Portland Stage

The last play Kevin R. Free saw before the pandemic was “Where We Stand,” a new play written by his friend Donnetta Lavinia Gray that ran off-Broadway last winter.

He attended with a theater friend, and afterward they talked over a glass of wine. “We talked about the coronavirus, and we were worried it was going to happen,” Free said. “I remember saying to her, ‘Do you really think it will come here? Do you think it will be a thing?’ ”

She did, and it was. All these months later, Free is directing “Where We Stand” at Portland Stage, opening Friday. Portland Stage describes the play as a modern fable, set in the here and now. It is about what compassion – or the lack of it – looks like in a community.

“I want people to know that this is a play about community and embracing community and the consequences of not embracing members of our community,” said Free, who considers Portland Stage one of his artistic homes. This is his fourth project with the theater.

Director Kevin R. Free Courtesy of Portland Stage

“I think the community of Portland has its head in the right place,” he said. “Every time I am here I think about the number of people I see from organizations who support the addicted and people with special needs. Every time I am here, I am reminded that Portland is a welcoming place for those communities. This is a play about community. It is not about just watching a person on stage be virtuosic. It is about the things we know theater can do – tell a good story and connect us to ourselves and our neighbors in a way we didn’t know we could.”

Tracey Conyer Lee plays the sole character in the show, a narrator with a musical, poetic voice. She portrayed Billie Holliday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” at Portland Stage, which Free directed.

Anita Stewart, the theater’s executive and artistic director, designed the scenery and is using lights by Maine-based light artist and sculptor Pandora LaCasse to help place the play in Portland. LaCasse’s lighted sculptures are visible across the city, especially in the winter.

When it debuted last winter in New York, “Where We Stand” began with the narrator rising from a theater seat and addressing the audience directly, from the aisles. Because of the pandemic and health and safety considerations, that intimate level of audience interaction won’t happen. But Free and Lee are exploring other ways to create a powerful and profound interaction that minimizes boundaries between actor and audience and encourages connections with the community.

The play runs about 80 minutes.

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