The non-binary artist talks about LiME, a work that started as a poem and is on its way to becoming a fully-fledged production.
Donta Storey is a non-binary actor, writer, and filmmaker from Los Angeles, California. While they wear many creative hats, they identify overall as a storyteller. Their most personal work, LiME started a poem, which became a solo play, and then an award-winning short film. Now, it’s returning to the stage.
Initially, Storey wanted to explore making this a feature film but has now opted into writing a full production. Set in the urban jungle of Compton in the early ’00s, LiME tells the story of Deshawn, a young man who discovers how hard it is to live in his truth after experiencing the bitterness of the real world.
LiME won Best Short at San Francisco Black Film Festival 2019, screened at over 14 festivals during its circuit run, and ended at the Los Angeles Outfest Fusion Festival 2020. It’s now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. Storey’s next projects include LiME: The Musical, the feature film Run, Joe, Run, and campy horror- dark comedy short Dooley Does Murder! all slated for 2021.
Below, Storey talks about their connection to the theatre and what it was like creating LiME.
What was your first experience being exposed to the arts?
Donta Storey: My exposure to the arts began really early. I’ve been a fan of and performer in theatre from grade school through college, and my first theatre role was portraying Hortensio in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in the sixth grade. Growing up in Los Angeles made it easy to explore those interests.
What is the genesis of LiME?
DS: LiME is based on my experiences growing up as a queer youth in Compton (a city adjacent to Los Angeles). It follows a young person exploring the world of majorettes, and while the story explores very traumatic experiences, it’s an inspirational tale in its foundation. As an artist, I found that the film was very cathartic for me. I fell in love with majorettes and the drum squad and marching band culture all over again.
How does the piece lend itself to be presented in multiple forms (poem, solo show, short film, tentatively a fully staged production?)
DS: LiME is very immersive emotionally, and it grips you. I’m happy that in the short time audiences spend with Deshawn in LiME, not only do they feel for him, but they feel compelled to cheer him on through his journey, which is exciting when you consider stories for the stage. A lot of what makes the film work is the music, and when exploring what to do with LiME next, it dawned on me that the stage was the natural next step. It’s been exciting turning this film into a musical, working with the marching band and blending them in with the music we’re writing. Don’t get me to start on the choreography! I can’t wait to share this with L.A., Seattle, and NYC when it’s safe to begin working in close quarters again.
What is your approach to theatre-making?
DS: For me, it’s all about exploring what excites you the most as an artist. I think theatre experience is and should be immersive, which is what makes me most excited about bringing my film LiME to the stage. The theatre is such a personal experience for each actor and audience member, and I’m excited for the challenge to add to that list of artistic memories. I think it’s imperative to use that space. It’s very different from film for that reason, and I’m keeping that in mind.
How did your time at California State University-Los Angeles and in the world of community theatre affect you professionally and personally?
DS: I found a family and home away from home in the theatre program [there]. My first show at CSULA was Urinetown and I remember being so nervous, and so afraid to even audition. Funnily enough, that show and the cast and crew ended up contributing to one of the best experiences of my life. The inclusivity that I experienced in the L.A. community scene set the stage for the path I’m currently on in the film, and TV even. Professionally. I think it inspired me to chase the jobs that scare me and inspired me to tell stories that excite me.