MTA Studio productions hit the stage

Muhlenberg students filled the Studio Theatre with live performance for the 2021 season

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The cast of "Guest Speaker" in performance // Photo by Joey Marcacci '23

The Muhlenberg Theater Association showcased both the acting and producing skills of its members in the Trexler Pavilion for Theater and Dance this past weekend. The unique collection of student-produced plays left the audience feeling every emotion, from bright and lively to somber and moved. These plays included “Dandelions,” written and directed by Clarissa Shirley ‘22; “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allen Poe, directed by Bekka Broyles ‘22; “Guest Speaker,” written and directed by Joey Marcacci ‘23; and “Scared Silly,” written by Don Zolidis and directed by Eden Kaufman ‘23.

“For some of us, myself included, it was a return to live performance that we have been desperately seeking for over a year now. For many of us, this is our first Muhlenberg live theater debut.”

– Aidan White ‘25

This year’s productions were many of the students’ first taste of producing and directing plays by themselves, and many of them enjoyed this exciting and new process.

Aidan White ‘25, an actor in “Scared Silly,” shared, “I really think that this year’s studios meant a lot for the majority of people working on them. For some of us, myself included, it was a return to live performance that we have been desperately seeking for over a year now. For many of us, this is our first Muhlenberg live theater debut. It gave them the chance to use the skills that they have learned here at Muhlenberg. I think it’s fair to say that we all loved the opportunity to be a part of the Studios and I really think it shows.”

With total freedom and range, the topics in these plays are entirely unique from one another. “Dandelions” featured three accounts of abuse and its psychological effects on the three characters. “The Masque of the Red Death” was a rendition of Edgar Allen Poe and his account of the “Red Death,” a fictitious and deadly disease that destroys a king and his colleagues. “Guest Speaker” showcased a guest speaker who was invited to speak at a high school. Lastly, “Scared Silly” included four 10 minute plays from a ghost placement agency to a student finding a killer among their friends.

“‘Dandelions’ was a very heavy show, but the entire cast and creative team, especially our director Clarissa Shirley, was so understanding and respectful of our boundaries throughout the whole process. It was such an important story to tell to bring survivors’ stories to light and as an education tool to start essential conversations surrounding domestic violence, intimate partner abuse, pedophilia, victim blaming and more,” explained Julianne Lucas ‘24, an actress in the production. “I hope that people who saw the show walked out not only with a way to start those conversations, but also with a newfound appreciation for and understanding of how art can be a catalyst for social change.”

Two of the productions featured very serious topics of assault and internal struggles, having the audience encapsulated in its realness.

“I was surprised by how well the actors interacted with the audience. It wasn’t too extra and over-the-top and the audience was pretty responsive. I also thought the lighting was really impressive,” explained Serena Albahary ‘24, a viewer of “The Masque of the Red Death.”

There was definitely an overarching positive reaction from the audience of all four productions as the talent of every student was showcased.

“I enjoyed every aspect of the productions from lighting, set design, sound—everything was done terrifically.”

– Justin Walker ‘25

Giovanna Evans ‘21, an audience member of “Dandelions,” shared, “I personally loved the show and thought it was really well made and directed. The plot was super captivating and all of the actors were incredibly talented.”

The students made each production with such a passion for theater that was shown in the quality of both aspects of acting and producing. The Muhlenberg Theater Association has done it again this year with a very successful weekend full of every emotion.

Justin Walker ‘25, the king in “The Masque of the Red Death,” said, “I enjoyed every aspect of the productions from lighting, set design, sound—everything was done terrifically. For some of us, myself included, it was our first time working on a devised piece, so being given that experience was wonderful. That being said, the process of devising worked very well for this show, as everyone was able to add bits and pieces of their ideas throughout the show.”

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