The Michigan State University Department of Theatre announces an experimental season for Fall 2020, rooted in diversity, equity, inclusion, and public discourse. While conventional stage performances had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Theatre has built a slate of nontraditional performative exchanges to showcase the work of its students and faculty. By making use of experimental practices, they are tackling themes related to the immediate social and political challenges.
While the format of the season is unfamiliar, the collaborative spirit shared by students and faculty has not waivered.
“The ability of our students and faculty to answer the call to produce creative work that protects everyone’s safety is truly exceptional,” said Department of Theatre Chairperson Stephen DiBenedetto. “We hope audiences are as excited as we are by this opportunity to engage in public civic discourse through innovation and novel contemporary performances.”
“The ability of our students and faculty to answer the call to produce creative work that protects everyone’s safety is truly exceptional. We hope audiences are as excited as we are by this opportunity to engage in public civic discourse through innovation and novel contemporary performances.”Stephen Di Benedetto, Ph.D., Department of Theatre Chairperson
Topics explored throughout this experimental season include issues of pandemic health and safety, racial justice, LGBTQIA+ advocacy, neurodiversity, the #MeToo movement, grassroots political activism, gun violence, the economy, and more. For complete details on each experimental project, visit the MSU Department of Theatre website.
VOTE YOUR VOICE – Media Design
In her project, VOTE YOUR VOICE, Rose Legge, an MFA design candidate, will use a technique called projection mapping to cast graphic art images onto the side of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum (MSU Broad). The presentation will empower citizens to vote by bringing attention to important information, like how to apply for a mail-in ballot or locate the East Lansing City Clerk’s office. In the transitions between the informational content, the artist has inserted visuals of timely social justice and human rights issues. The projections will be viewable from the street by passing vehicles and pedestrians alike. The content will span 20 minutes and loop for a two-hour duration. This MSU Department of Theatre special project is presented in partnership with the MSU Broad.
Saturday, October 24 – Friday, October 30, 2020
6 – 8 p.m.
MSU BROAD, 547 E. Circle Dr., East Lansing, MI 48824
LISTEN. (&VOTE) – World Premiere Play
LISTEN. (&VOTE) is a series of original recorded performances, written and performed by MSU students, that examine how generational lenses can color a conversation. Actors have created a series of original vignettes discussing the social issues that are currently impacting college students. Each student actor will take on the roles of two people from different generations, discussing the social issues that are currently impacting college students. From the pandemic to Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, gun violence, the economy, and more, LISTEN. (&VOTE) will serve as a call to action to empower college students to vote and make a difference in the 2020 election.
MEDUSA – A New Musical Development Documentary
In its seventh year, the 2020 ĭmáGen collaboration with the Wharton Center Institute for Arts & Creativity, supported by MSU Federal Credit Union, shifts from staged reading to documentary film. Viewers will get an inside look at the work that goes into developing a new musical. The film follows Broadway directors, actors, and choreographers as they collaborate with MSU musical theatre students, dance students, and local high school actors in the creation of the new musical, MEDUSA.
Based on the original Greek myth, MEDUSA is the story of a woman who tries to make her own fate in a patriarchal world. When the god Poseidon assaults her by the sea one night, she learns just how little power she holds in the supposedly free and enlightened city of Athens. As Medusa fights back against both gods and mortals, rumors fly about this angry woman with “snakes in her hair.” The legend is born. Told with modern language and a darkly energetic score, Medusa is an ancient tragedy that is as timely and necessary now as ever. Book, music, and lyrics by Wes Braver and Rachel Dean.
This online event is only available for limited viewing on November 7 at 7 p.m. and November 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets go on sale Friday, October 22, through WhartonCenter.com. Ticket prices: $10 Students, $15 General Public.
SODA POP SHOP! – World Premiere Play
Written and directed by Dionne O’Dell
SODA POP SHOP! is a 1950s-style interactive musical that centers on the main character Jitterbug, who is a nervous and jittery bug. He is uncomfortable with noise and chaos and is worried about attending the grand opening celebration of the shop. Through music, calming exercises, focus, and friendship, Jitterbug is able to enjoy the afternoon and his friends learn about true acceptance and inclusion. SODA POP SHOP! has been modified to be performed via Zoom for families with children who are neurodiverse and will tour throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
“PANDEMIC’D!” – A Mockumentary Comedy
FRESHMEN SHOWCASE 2020
Directed by Sarah Hendrickson and Ryan Welsh
MSU Department of Theatre freshmen are followed by a fictitious camera crew as they explore their first year in college. Using humor and satire, these actors delve into the uniqueness of their experience in a university and society that have been impacted by a pandemic. It’s “Parks & Rec” meets “Glee” meets “Waiting for Guffman” meets “The Office.” It’s PANDEMIC’D!
DEI AUDIO ANTHOLOGY – Audio Dramas
Directed by Deric McNish
An anthology of original radio plays inspired by poems on the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The topics, voices, and styles for each play will vary, but all will engage with difficult questions chosen by student artists. Episodes will include links to the source material that inspired each play and a student-made documentary video about the creative process of the project.
Transforming Theatre Ensemble (TTE) is teaming up with the Department of Theatre to develop and present a series of student-written and performed video vignettes as a commitment to positive change on campus. The short scripts developed will be used to educate students, faculty, staff, and administrators at Michigan State University on matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion in a series of workshop performances in 2021 via Zoom video conferencing.
DISTANCE SERIES – Costume Design
MFA Design Candidate Grace Foiles creates a collection of wearable sculptures with the intention of keeping people at least six feet away from their wearer, in response to calls for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pieces are influenced by Antonin Artaud’s philosophy on the “Theatre of Cruelty” and seek to “shock the spectator into seeing the baseness of his world” through bizarre structures and strong visual language. Foiles will start with 30 sketches and work from there to fully realize one to five pieces. The experience of public engagement will be documented.
UNTOLD STORIES – World Premiere Devised Performance
MFA acting candidates Sharon Combs, Abbie Cathcart, Kevin Craig, Eloy Gomez-Orfila, and Darah Donaher will direct the collaboration, creation, and performance of four original devised works based on current newspaper headlines. Final performances will be recorded and released for viewing near the end of the semester.
GRADS IN DRAG – Costume Design
GRADS IN DRAG is a web miniseries from the brain of second-year MFA design candidate Zech Saenz. The series of shorts will be hosted by Dinah Plate, a campy, voluptuous drag queen. This project is meant to shine a comedic light on modern-day issues such as the presidential election, the pandemic, and other struggles a person might encounter in 2020. There will be a strong emphasis on costume, hair, and makeup design, incorporated with student-generated content that will entice and engage a broad range of audiences.