Welcome to FEED: OU MTD students put on world premiere play

By Rachel Williams

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Audience members were greeted at the door to Varner Lab Theatre by music, theatre, and dance (MTD) students proclaiming, “Welcome to Feed.” Upon arriving in the theatre itself, they faced a large flat screen television, framed by large metallic cogs and gears. Sets of televisions stood atop one another in each corner of the stage, but otherwise the room was dark with billowing smoke. 

Director Anna Marck came out before showtime, thanking the people who made the production possible, including M.T. Anderson, the novel’s author; playwright Garrett Markgraf and Oakland’s MTD faculty. She proudly stated that the show was a world premier production — it has not been performed anywhere other than Oakland University’s Varner Lab Theatre, and was completely student-run.  

Markgraf said that the creation of this production began for him back in high school where he read the novel “Feed” by M.T. Anderson.

“I instantly fell in love with the story and wanted to share it with as many people as possible, and the best way I know how to share stories, is through the theater,” Markgraf said.   

Marck describes when Markgraf first approached her with the script about a year and a half ago.  

“He told me he had adapted one of his favorite novels from growing up into a play and he asked if I would read it,” Marck said. “A few pages in, I knew that this was something legitimate – something that I wanted to see come to life.”   

Markgraf’s script and Anderson’s novel describe life in the future, where an advanced intelligence chip called the Feed is inserted into each person’s brain. The Feed allows people to surf the web with their own minds, experience television and video games in 4D reality, message one another using telepathic brain waves and more.  

Rehearsals for the entirely student-run production began on August 3, where the actors developed the main characters: Titus, Violet, Link, Marty, Calista, Quendy, and Loga. Throughout the play, Titus and Violet become romantically involved and argue about the ethics and effectiveness of the Feed, throwing the entire group into uncertainty about the only lifestyle they’ve ever known.  

The actors’ passion was evident through the performance. Marck believed the production to be important for the Oakland MTD program. 

“As artists, our job is to create,” Marck said. “But we often get stuck in recreating, reciting, and mimicking. This time, we did not have anything to look to for guidance. It forced us to think for ourselves, to look within and just make choices from our gut.”   

This passion and creativity will hopefully inspire many more student-run productions at Oakland, exploring new material and ideas.  

“At the end of the day, I really only hoped that audiences would be touched by the story of ‘Feed’ in some way, like I was,” Markgraf said. “That’s what theater is. Sharing a story with an audience and hoping it provokes thought and emotion.”  

The cast and crew of “Feed” shared this ahead of its time, yet relatable story with stunning costume design, strong characters and plot points, a well-written script, a synth-heavy soundtrack and the obvious dedication of many talented students.