Bobcats take center stage with Midnight Madness

Ohio MFA Playwrighting students set the stage for a night of theatre.

Ohio MFA Playwriting students set the stage for a night of theatre. Photo by Hayley Harding.

Those looking for something to do on a Friday night need not look farther than Midnight Madness, a weekly event hosted in Kantner Hall. Almost every Friday at 11 p.m., one can find a large group of people gathering not for a class or a party, but to watch a series of three-to-five minute plays written, produced and acted out by fellow Ohio University students.

“Midnight Madness is technically a class for the MFA Playwriting students,” said Rachel Bykowski, a student in the program.  “The class is designed to teach us what writing for a specific theater company or commission would be like… As playwrights, we have to learn how to write for that specific theme, but at the same time maintain our own artistic voices.”

For audience members, however, Madness is a treat. It’s a chance to watch fellow students—often picked from acting studios at both the undergraduate and graduate levels—act out short scenes revolving around a theme. It’s also free of admission.

Every playwright has their own way of casting, but for Bykowski, it’s a low-pressure situation.

“Casting is as casual as a text message to the actor you want to work with or bumping into them in the hallway and saying, ‘Hey, are you free on Friday? Want to be in my Madness?’” said Bykowski. “The actors at Ohio University are all very eager to collaborate with new works and it helps that we have such a talented group of people to choose from.”

The theme for a Madness, picked weekly by a Playwriting student serving as a producer, can be anything from revolution to prom night. On Mondays, the playwrights meet as a class and learn their prompt. From there, they go off and write a short play about the theme. According to Bykowski, some people tackle the theme literally while others go a little more conceptually and look at what else the prompt can mean to people.

A weekly schedule for the production of a Madness can vary just as much as the interpretations. Bykowski noted that she likes to have her plays written by the middle of the week and cast by Thursday. This is followed by at least one rehearsal.

“Many times during these rehearsals, we as playwrights immediately notice what is working and what is not working,” said Bykowski. “We make cuts and edits to our script right then and there.”

Finally, the weekly producer gets the script Friday morning. Edits can be made any time before the show actually starts, but the goal is to give the producer “a general idea” of the plays. The producer decides on the order of the show and then writes a frame to help the audience understand the individual performances overall. According to Bykowski, the frame is made up of a couple of five-minute plays that showcase what the prompt means and why the producer picked the prompt for the night. It makes it easier for the audience to understand how each playwright was inspired.

People looking to attend Midnight Madness can get tickets in Kantner Hall beginning at 10 p.m. Friday night for the 11 p.m. show. According to the Ohio MFA Playwriting Program’s website, the performances go on for about an hour.

It should be noted, however, that tickets usually go quickly, and those who want to attend should arrive early.

“If you’re late, you don’t get to go,” said Rachel Niemi, a freshman studying journalism. “I only got to go in because I had to for class, and even then, I had to sit on the floor.”

Despite the sometimes uncomfortable seating arrangements, Niemi highly recommends attending Madness at least once.

“It’s a good show,” said Niemi. “You can tell that they put a lot of work into it and they really like what they do.”

The next Midnight Madness will be Friday, Jan. 30, and will be produced by Aaron Johnson.

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