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storytelling
towards wild futures.

elle thoni

playwright
&
public artist

about elle

Elle Thoni (they/them) is a queer femmebeast playwright, performance-maker, and public artist returning to relationship in this time of Great Unraveling. A lifelong student of myth, Elle’s performance works investigate how our sense of belonging, identity, and loss are changing with our climate. Their plays are odes to emergent ecologies, wherein humans are but one of the actors in a much larger drama. Elle draws from a divergent background in ensemble-devised performance, poetry, puppet & mask, and documentary theatre to create pieces that are as dynamic as the living systems they are inspired by. 

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From Queen B: A New Work of Honeybee Futurism, co-presented by Wild Conspiracy (artist's company) and Tamales y Bicicletas Urban Farm on Dahkóta land in South Minneapolis. Photo credit: Maxwell Collyard. Performers (clockwise from left) Lelis Brito, Or Levinson, Ricky Morisseau

plays

FULL LENGTH WORKS

 

From the Ground Up 

7 actors, currently in development
Ms. Vivian hopes to heal the neighborhood and herself by gardening in a reclaimed urban lot. Yet her harvest party becomes an all-night community defense when the Field of Possibilities is threatened with imminent destruction from the city. A
 defensive fantasy about the struggle to share space and find sanctuary in a world where everyone is both human and plant, weed and medicine.


Monstrous, or A Short Narrative on an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits

11-20 actors, 90-110 min play
Mary's search for an abortion provider lands them in 1720s England, w
here they pass as Mary Toft, a historical figure notorious for giving birth to rabbits. A queer exploration of rage in the post-Roe era, 'Monstrous' confronts government control over bodily autonomy with absurdity and magic.

*Second Place Recipient, Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, Kennedy Center

Queen B: A New Work of Honeybee Futurism
6-8 actors, 90-120 min musical
book by Elle Thoni, music by Dameun Strange & Carlisle Evans-Peck
100 y
ears into the future, cities have sealed themselves under holographic domes to protect themselves from the inhospitable climate. Yet, when the robo-bee population begins to die off like their honeymaking ancestors, the fate of this new society rests upon the fading memories of the last living beekeeper, a (former?) revolutionary who goes by the name Queen B.

*See Projects for Production History

 

Bestiary of Rogues

6-8 actors, 70-90 min play

After a fatal fire at communal house in South Minneapolis, a band of urban animals come together to tell the story of what happened - or is it? Part documentary theatre and part punk folklore, 'Bestiary of Rogues' sifts through the wreckage to find the difference between between fact and truth with tremendous heart.
 

Woolly: A de-extinction play

6-8 actors, 70-90 min play

As evolutionary biologist Dr. Robin Slater prepares for her Ted Talk, she and her family members find themselves disappearing into the tundra of her anxious imagination. When - and how - will they be able to find their way back to the present time and moment? Based on the science of de-extinction, 'Woolly' is a play about the liminal space between hope and heartbreak, what we stand to lose, and what may still be possible to regain.
 

SHORTER WORKS


Moon Zoo

3 actors, 10 min play

Welcome to the first wilderness park on the moon. The first bear is scheduled to arrive on the next shuttle. How will two clueless first-generation "Moonies" make a suitable habitat for her? A sci-fi comedy about so-called "nature."

The First Whale

2 actors, 10 min play

Natural history gets a redux in this queer retelling of the evolution of the whale from a land to sea mammal.

Please visit me on New Play Exchange for select scripts. 
For inquiries, please contact me at ellethoni@gmail.com

"Thoni's dramatic voice is laden with a super power. That power is to make you fall in love with plant and animal characters in a magical way. You'll become invested in the flora and fauna, crave their happy endings, and adore them for the beautiful living breathing entities that they are." 

Gretchen Suárez-Peña, Playwright

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projects & commissions

From Saber, MN, Wild Conspiracy, 2020. Photo credit: Maxwell Collyard.
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THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER WHALE PROJECT

IN DEVELOPMENT 2023 - 

finalist for the Civilians R&D group, supported by The Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University

A humpback whale gets blown off-course by an extreme storm in the Gulf, only to find themselves traveling along a strange new coast: the Mississippi River.

I am imagining this project as a future traveling river opera that meditates on the shifting nature of home and human & animal migration, as well as finding kin in unlikely places. Thanks to the Studio for Creative Inquiry in supporting early research in the Mississippi Delta with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and A Studio in the Woods.

 

Now seeking to connect with more Mississippi River communities downriver of Minnesota. If that includes you, please reach out!

Image generated from StarryAI, trained by uncompensated artists
Photos by Maxwell Collyard and Bruce Silcox
DEMO: Us Against the World (that Remains)Carlisle Evans Peck
00:00 / 03:10
DEMO: My Mother was a QueenCarlisle Evans Peck
00:00 / 03:52

QUEEN B: A NEW WORK OF HONEYBEE FUTURISM

book and libretto by Elle Thoni, music by Dameun Strange and Carlisle Evans Peck

supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative & Arts Tour Grants, and Kickstarter supporters

An original musical set 100 years in the future post "Buzz Extinction," where cities have sealed themselves under holographic domes to protect against an unlivable climate.

When the Dome's hive of pollinating robo-bees begins to die-off like their natural predecessors, the last living beekeeper from the Exterior, Queen B, must decide whether to save this quarantined civilization, or flee it.

Queen B received a site-specific workshop production at Tamales y Bicicletas Urban Farm (Minneapolis) in 2019. Its Midwest premiere was at Franconia Sculpture Park (Schafer, MN) in August 2021, followed by a tour of Minnesota farms and green spaces on occupied Dakhóta land. The production was directed by Harry Waters Jr. with Music Direction by Carlisle Evans-Peck. 

DEMO: Ten Thousand WingsCarlisle Evans Peck
00:00 / 05:20
Photos by Madilynn Balls and Maxwell Collyard
Elk - Saber, MNWild Conspiracy (feat. Chasya Hill)
00:00 / 06:30
Caribou - Saber, MNWild Conspiracy (feat. Or Levinson)
00:00 / 03:07
Moose - Saber, MNWild Conspiracy (feat. Sequoia Hauck)
00:00 / 05:48
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Photo by Teeko Yang, performer Elle Thoni (center) with gamers
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SABER, MN

commissioned by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre, supported by NEA Art Works and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council

A dark radio play about haunted woods and resource extraction in the rural Midwest.

The township of Saber, MN hasn’t made news since one of its farmers discovered a saber tooth skull in 1883. Yet, when the City Council considers reopening an abandoned quarry, the woods surrounding the town become home to a host of supernatural fauna. Why are extinct animals coming back – and what are they after? Saber, MN is an immersive audio play experience that asks you to confront the wilderness within. 

Saber, MN was commissioned by In the Heart of the Beast (Minneapolis) for their 'Coming Home to Wild' performance series that was cancelled due to COVID-19. The mask performance was re-envisioned and released as a 50 min audio play with an original score by Carlisle Evans-Peck in December 2020. Excerpt below.

AQUANESIA

commissioned by Northern Lights.mn in partnership with the Reif Performing Arts Center and the Rochester Arts Center

A live action adventure game where players uncover clues through learning about watershed science. Can you find the cure Aquanesia and restore the memory of the past?

Written in collaboration with Kim Loken as Game Designer and Bayou Bay as Art Director, Aquanesia premiered in Grand Rapids, MN (Anishinaabe land) and was re-animated in Rochester, MN (Dakhóta land) in 2018. Learn more at aquanesia.lights.mn

KEKE THE MAMMOTH

with Big Animal Productions and Alison Heimstead

supported by the Awesome Foundation - Twin Cities

A 90% to scale woolly mammoth puppet designed by Chris Lutter-Gardella and fabricated by Alison Heimstead for climate-related spectacles and demonstrations. Keke premiered at the March for Science - MN in 2017.

Photo by Liz Welch
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LOST LAKE

supported by the Puppet Lab Fellowship of the Jerome Foundation

Lost Lake is a freshwater fable told through the poetry of mask performance. After many years away, a Traveller returns home to Lost Lake, only to discover that the lake itself has vanished. As the Traveller searches for the truth behind this transformed landscape, they risk falling prey to the strange survivors of the dried up lake  – and the dryness itself.

Lost Lake premiered at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (Minneapolis - Dakhóta land) in March 2018, co-directed by Isabel Nelson with original score by Walken Schweigert

Photo by Bruce Silcox, performer Kat Luna
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Saber, MN
Queen B
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work with me

Do you have an idea but aren't sure where to start? Are you looking to present your work in a new or non-traditional way? Do you want feedback on something that already exists on the page? Let me support with my 10+ years of experience in writing for performance, cross-sector public art production, teaching & facilitation, and artist support. I've had the joy of working with artists, scientists, activists, policy advocates, farmers, and small business owners to bring boundary-expanding projects to life. 

From Seeds to Movements: Feminist Leadership in Climate Justice, Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, March 3, 2020. Photo credit: Bruce Silcox.

COMMISSIONS

plays

film & tv

cross-disciplinary collaboration

public art
previous
: Walking Shadow Theater Company, Northern Lights.mn, Center for Arts and Society at Carnegie Mellon University

 ~ sample scripts upon request ~
 

TEACHING

university teaching

K-12 workshops

community workshops

one-on-one mentoring
previous: Carnegie Mellon University, Augsburg UniversityAssemble community art + technology maker space (Pittsburgh), Jungle Theater (Minneapolis), SteppingStone Theatre for Youth (St. Paul, MN)

~ sample syllabi upon request ~
 

SPEAKING

conference panel speaker

workshop speaker

previous: University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Forecast Public Art
 

CREATIVE SERVICES

creative writing consultation
public art consultation

dramaturgy

previous: Twin Cities Media Alliance, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre, Open Flame Theater
 

TECHNICAL SERVICES

digital copyediting

grant writing

previous: Teatro del Pueblo, Northern Lights.mn, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre, Upstream Arts
~ samples upon request ~
 

Please get in touch with me for a quote.

I am sometimes able to offer sliding scale fees, particularly to prospective clients with marginalized identities.

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