M.A.D. Theatre gets makeover in more ways than one

Cassie Lajeunesse, Campus Carrier deputy news editor

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The new cast of M.A.D Theatre poses for a cast photo in the new Blackstone Theatre.

According to Director of Theatre Anna Filippo, this year’s Make a Difference (M.A.D) Theatre program at Viking Venture was almost completely new. The program, which centers around sensitive situations that college students might face, has been in existence since 2005, but this year was Filippo’s first as director. The program also had a completely new cast, a revised script and a new performance space.

“I extended the rehearsal time by a couple of days,” Filippo said. “We used every minute of it.”

The show was auditioned and cast in April. The new cast consisted of eight members: two males and six females. This posed some challenges because the script was written with three male parts. The script also included a scene depicting racism against an African American, but the cast did not have any African American members.  Because of this, Filippo decided to revise the script. She asked junior Jack Padgett to help with the project. Padgett is a creative writing major with a minor in theatre who took a playwriting class taught by Filippo last semester.

“I have a lot of interest in writing for the stage,” Padgett said. 

Padgett worked on revisions to the script throughout the summer and kept in contact with Filippo about the revision process. According to Padgett, one of the biggest changes to the script was a rewrite of the scene addressing racism. Because no African Americans auditioned for the show, the scene had to be reworked to reflect the current cast members.

“By American standards, racism is usually centered around African Americans,” Padgett said. 

Padgett also worked at a camp this summer and enlisted the help of his coworkers in developing a scene that dealt with discrimination against individuals of Hispanic ethnicity. He interviewed his Hispanic coworkers about their experiences with discrimination and used this material in the scene.

“It was really astounding to me,” Padgett said. “Some of the stuff they talked about I’ve never really thought about. It reiterates what MAD says in that segment, that so many of us in the privileged, white culture don’t think strongly about racism and don’t think that it happens nearly as much as it does. It was really eye-opening.”

Padgett and Filippo agree that working with this sensitive subject matter is difficult, especially because sometime scenes like these can seem overly dramatic. However, Filippo believes that this cast handled the sensitive topics well.

“I was really pleased to see the maturity of this cast handling these scenes involving date rape, sexual assault and prejudicial, racist issues,” Filippo said. 

The cast rehearsed for a week before performing four shows of M.A.D Theatre at Viking Venture. Though it was a long process, sophomore Jordan Potter, an actress in M.A.D, thinks that it is an important program for incoming freshmen.

“It’s not a particularly uplifting welcome to Berry, but I think it’s important that we talk about it,” Potter said.

Filippo believes that this is an impactful way to teach freshmen about situations they might experience and how to respond to these difficult issues.

“When I was a freshman, orientation was almost negligible,” Filippo said. “I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t know what resources are available. I feel like the orientation process here [at Berry] is very thorough.”

Padgett agrees that this program is an important thing for freshmen to experience at orientation.

“A really big part of M.A.D Theatre is letting people know that there is an opportunity for help,” Padgett said. “I think that it instills a lot of hope in people who might have to deal with situations like that, and that’s incredibly important. Everybody is worthy of respect. Everybody is worthy of the opportunity to move past those boundaries that other people and society have put in place for them.”

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